Mar 05, 2021Chris LaBranche


On now to far southern Italy for a cold-weather classic, Puglian Primitivo. One of the best known wines from the South of Italy, this warm Mediterranean region is known for its rich, rustic reds that appeal to a wide variety of drinkers, particularly those who tend toward new-world styles of wine. It was revealed decades ago after extensive genetic mapping that Primitivo was indeed identical to Zinfandel. And when you drink them, it’s clearly true. Both tend to ripen to high levels of alcohol and give up ripe, often jammy flavor profiles. Indeed, many Puglian Primitivos flirt with overripeness and excessive amounts of stewed rather than fresh fruits in the flavor profile. At La Masseria, though, they pick earlier than most, and take care to extract less tannin during maceration. The result is a seriously drinkable yet unapologetically full iteration of Primitivo. 


On the nose, blue and black fruits leap out at you highlighting herbal notes of thyme and rosemary. On the palate, notes of blackberry and currant lead the way, alongside a subtle citrus component. Blood orange perhaps? The balance and freshness are certainly here, but there’s no way around the fact that this is a big, burly wine that demands appropriately substantial fare on the table. Try it with our recipe for Smoked Turkey Breast.


Though Primitivo has long thrived in the warm, Mediterranean climate of Puglia, it was likely introduced there after being brought from nearby Croatia, where it has existed for centuries. During the course of the introduction of the vine in America, it was introduced in California as Zinfandel. Later on, when things got serious in California wine, the focus shifted hard from Italian to French grapes, and the link between Primitivo and Zinfandel was lost, leading many to believe that Zinfandel was America’s best native grape. Though we know that to be incorrect, it’s certainly true that Zinfandel is among the grapes most widely embraced in American viticulture, likely more so than in Italy.

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