Primitivo is a grape variety that predominantly comes from the southern parts of Italy in the Puglia region. Puglia is a hot, dry region, with Primitivo the second most planted grape variety behind Sangiovese.
Like Puglia in Italy, Australia’s Barossa has similar growing conditions, which is why Primitivo has translated so well to the Barossa Valley.
What’s in a Name
An early ripening variety, the name Primitivo translates roughly as ‘early one’.
Primitivo is widely believed to be from a Croatian coastal grape variety of Tribidrag and Crljenak Kasteljanski (pronounced Tserl-yee-ehnak Kashh-tell-ann-skee). Primitivo arrived in Puglia in the 1700s. Then early in the 19th century, these vines were introduced into the United States, albeit under the name of Zinfandel.
Confusion ensued for some time regarding the two different grape varieties until DNA testing in the 1990s proved that Zinfandel and Primitivo are different clones of the same Croatian grape variety. Their differences in the name and wine style may be attributed much to growing conditions and the overall winemaking process.
Zinfandel gained traction in the US and is known as the American national grape. It became prevalent in California, where it is most often used to produce sweet and fruity rosé wine, commonly known as White Zinfandel. It is also sometimes used in blending wine to add depth and structure.
In the 1990s, the EU undertook a vine pull that saw thousands of acres of Primitivo pulled in Italy simply because it is a tricky grape variety to manage in the vineyard. Primitivo is susceptible to drought, frosts, and floral abortion. The relatively compact bunches create vulnerability to mildew diseases and vine pests.
Traditionally, Primitivo was used in Italy as a blending variety, adding depth, colour and fruit sweetness to wines. But after the vine pull rebirth, it has become one of southern Italy’s flagship wines. It is medium-bodied, fruit-driven (think bright red jubes) with an earthy and savoury finish.
Primitivo in Australia
Australia’s history with Primitivo started only a few short decades ago, with Margaret River’s Cape Mentelle plantings in 1974.
We source our Primitivo grapes from the Keady Vineyard in Barossa’s highly respected Moppa region.
The vineyard is around 310-320m above sea level with an easterly aspect. Soil consists of brown loam over shallow red clay with shattered ironstone. The vineyard was planted in 2002 and is own rooted, and the clone is unknown. Vines are spur pruned with the mid rows cultivated to winter active fescue.
Perfect food pairing with Primitivo
Primitivo perfectly pairs best with Grilled Vegetable Pasta, Pizza Rustica, Spaghetti Bolognese, Chicken Cacciatore, and Lamb Curry. The silky tannins and medium acidity, along with the easy-going nature of Primitivo, make it food-friendly with hearty and earthy fare, including tomato based dishes.
A last note: now it’s time to taste!
Vibrant colour, complex aromas of cherry, cinnamon quill, tobacco, strawberry conserve and chocolate bullets. A medium to full bodied palate that has a supple almost velvety feel. Sweet fruit engulfs the palate but is balanced by textural tannin followed by noticeable acidity giving a refreshing finish. Flavours of sweet spice, licorice make this wine very morish.
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