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Primitivo (Zinfandel)

The Primitivo grape is also known as Zinfandel in USA or Crljenak Kastelanski in Croatia. Originating in Croatia, it is notorious for uneven ripening. This leads to a higher sugar content, as they are left on the vine to ripen fully. It's a small grape, so despite the thin skin, it usually has higher tannins due to the lower skin-to-juice ratio


Expect a full bodied, plump wine, with high tannins. Beautiful jammy blackberry & peach preserves coupled with smoky cinnamon spice notes, it's bold & fruit forward. It's also made into a sweet rose style called White Zinfandel.

The main reason for this plump-ness is due to it being a grape that ripens unevenly. As such, many winemakers leave it on the vine to ripen fully, leading to high sugar content & sweeter, high alcohol wines.

Due to the exotic spice notes, Primitivo often pairs well with Moroccan & Turkish dishes using cinnamon & cardamom. Try also something with a strong caramalized flavor. Think Shawarma or smoked meats & vegetables, Asian BBQ, or a Pulled Pork burger!


Primitivo performs well in warm sunny regions, and due to it's thin skins, is very sensitive to terroir.


Cool climate areas such as Puglia in Italy will develop juicy red berry flavors. Expect notes of raspberry, baking spices & licorice. It would have more of a rustic edge, in contrast to the jammy characters of warmer climates. Look to the Primitivo di Manduria as a popular Primitivo producing region, including a late harvest style sweet wine. 


California's climate creates the perfect environment for Primitivo to florish. Here, it goes by the name Zinfandel, and has gained so much popularity that more people know the grape by this name than Primitivo.

Lodi produces wines with a beautiful roasted plum & sweet tobacco note. It's Mediterranean climate is moderated by the San Francisco bay & Sacramento River Delta, with sandy clay soils. 

Napa Valley would produce wines of similar depth, but due to the volcanic soils, would give the wines a nice rich smoky note.

Somona is another beautiful Zinfandel producing region. Expect rich baking spice & an undertone of pepper. Long summers with cool nights & hot days gives the wines a beautiful acidity & freshness. Look to the Russian River Vallet or Alexander Valley for quality wines. Mendocino is another region that would produce similar wine styles. 

Tags: Varietal