Any red/pink or white zinfandel friends out there? Would you believe me if I told you, the grape used to make Zin is actually an Italian grape from southern Italy, specifically, Puglia?
That’s right, your American zinfandel is actually Italian! It was brought to the US from Italy in 1968, related zinfandel and planted with much success in the Napa valley and Sonoma areas of California.
But let’s get back to the Italian version. Primitivo grows in the hot, dry areas of southern Italy and has DOC, DOCG and IGT status depending on where it’s grown exactly.
I usually consider primitivo as the wine for people who think they don’t like wine. It’s bold, frutty, tastes like jam and has a higher alcohol content than other wines. It’s got a lot of flavor, in some cases tastes more like grape juice than an adult beverage, and is easy to drink alone or with food.
In particular, primitivo goes great with things like braised lamb, steak with a rich balsamic reduction, or even eggplant parm. Being a big, bold wine, it creates a sort of taste explosion when paired with foods that also have a lot of big flavors.
For me, primitivo holds a special place in my heart. Not only is the first Italian wine I liked (I will be honest, I didn’t love chianti at first taste!) but it’s also grown in the area where my family comes from in italy. My family has their own grapes and makes their own jammy primitivo that they eat with all my favorite pugliese dishes, like orecchiette.
If you find yourself a bit confused about Italian wines, or feeling like you don’t really like Italian wines but haven’t tried a primitivo, I encourage you to give it a taste. If you already know you like zinfandel, look for a primitivo with a similar flavor panel, by reading the back of the bottle. It is genetically the exact same grape as the california variety, so it’s one Italian wine you experiment with while still staying in your comfort zone.