Friday, November 6, 2020

Primitivo: Zinfandel of Southern Italy

Back in September I wrote about a unique white blend from the Amastuola winery in Puglia.  This month’s Italian Food, Wine and Travel event brings us to discover the Primitivo grape of Italy.  I fortunately had a bottle of Primitivo from Amastuola as well that I’ll be sharing a little later. 

The Grape ~ Primitivo 

Let’s first chat about the Primitivo grape.  It’s a grape that hails from southern Italy, primarily in the region of Puglia located on the heel of the boot.  In Puglia it’s the 3rd most planted grape that grows well in the hot, dry conditions.  It’s a grape that is genetically related to zinfandel, although quite different in style.  Those from California are typically higher in sugar and therefore riper in a New World style versus those of Italy that have more of a rustic presentation. 

The Primitivo grape originally came over from Croatia in the 1700’s and was selected this name meaning “early ripening”.  Primitivo had always been used as a blending grape until the 90’s when many growers and wineries received incentives to uproot many of the vines to better focus on quality.  Today the grape can be produced in a variety of styles, but is usually a full-bodied, jammy, fruit driven wine with high alcohol and moderate tannins. 

Some of the primary appellations of Puglia where this grape is grown are Primitivo di Manduria DOC, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG, Gioia del Colle DOC and the Salento IGT.  Italians are allowed to use Zinfandel on the label in place of Primitivo, which I can imagine would give them better recognition on the market with the unfamiliarity of the name Primitivo. 

The Wine 

2015 Amastuola Primitivo Puglia IGT 

Garnet in color with aromas of cherry, pepper and earth.  On the palette it’s very dry with medium body.  It’s very different than many of the Primitivo I have experienced that are usually more lush and fuller bodied (not typically my style).  This wine has an earthiness about it, with cherry and cedar notes.  Nice acidity showing up drier on the finish with firm, moderate tannin.  ABV 14% SRP $16 

2015 Amastuola Primitivo

What’s your experience with Primitivo and is it a style you typically favor?

Follow my fellow Italian food and wine writers as they share their perspective on Primitivo.  Catch us live on Twitter this Saturday at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT.


*This wine was provided as a sample, but opinions are always my own.  Importer: Mariposa Imports


  1. I think I would appreciate the more sparse Primitivo. I'll keep an eye out for that bottle. Cin cin, Jen.

  2. You noted most Primitivo you've tasted are lusher and fuller. That was also my experience (the same used to go for CA Zinfandel) until I visited Gioia del Colli where many show up without a jammy character. Amastuola is my style too!

  3. I'm definitely interested in sampling more primitivo from Italy as well as the US!

  4. This sounds like such a pretty version. I'll be on the lookout!