January 27-Italian Primativo

I selected Primativo this week because Zinfandel is a wonderful variety of grape. Zinfandel’s origins come from Italy, where it is known by the name Primativo. During the gold rush, a good number of Italians immigrated to the West Coast of California and worked in or started wineries. A lot of early, pre-prohibition, zins in California (especially Napa and Sonoma) were grown by Italian immigrants. Unfortunately, the name Zinfandel got a less than ideal connotation when there was an accident during fermentation at Sutter Home in the 1970s. The winemaker was trying to make a white wine with the juice but because of the amount of time the juice had with the grape skins, the wine became a rosy pink color. The winery didn’t want to lose their inventory, so they decided to market it as White Zinfandel. A few years later, there was a problem with the wine not fermenting to a dry wine. For some inexplicable reason, the fermentation was stopping when there was still about 2% sugar remaining. The sweetness and pale pink color made the wine a hit. Still, to this day, many people don’t realize that Primativo or Zinfandel are red wines. 

Primativo is grown in warm climates. In Italy, this usually equates to Puglia (the heel and up to the back mid calf of the boot). The mediterranean climate and cooling of the Adriatic Sea are perfect to ripen the grapes while still allowing them to cool enough at night. Cooling at night allows the grapes to maintain some acid, which is essential to the wine once the grapes are picked and fermented. Acid in a wine helps balance any sugar and tannins. All of these components are responsible for a wines’ structure. Just as when a chef creates a meal with the five flavor components (acid, sweet, salty, umami, and bitter), a wine should also possess these traits. Primativo wines pair great with a less fatty cut of red meat, pizza, hamburger, or pork products of most types!

The wine I selected tonight was something I picked up quickly at Total Wine. It is a Caleo 2019 Primativo from the Salento area of Puglia (Salento is in the tip of the boot heel). I’d like to congratulate myself on not spilling any wine tonight, so since it finally all made it into the glass, I saw a clear, medium ruby wine with light staining on the legs that appeared on the sides of the glass. The nose of the wine was clean (unfaulted or smelled as expected) but took a little effort to find the aromas of red cherries, raspberries, blackberry bramble, vanilla and cinnamon. As I swished my first mouthful, I noticed the wine was a touch higher in acid than I expected from such a warm region. Also, the tannins gripped my tongue fairly well. It was quite full bodied even with a moderate alcohol level. It tasted of fresh cranberries, dried red cherries, blackberry pie, anise, cinnamon, and vanilla pudding as it lingered on the long finish. For the price, a mere $10, it is a decent Primativo. 

Congratulations!!! You made it through January with me! Only 11 more months to go!


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