NewsShould We Celebrate Primitivo on National Zinfandel Day too?

Should We Celebrate Primitivo on National Zinfandel Day too?

Welcome, wine enthusiasts, Happy National Zinfandel Day! Today, we raise our glasses to one of the boldest, vibrant varietals in the wine world—Zinfandel. While Zinfandel is a wine most people know and love, many aren’t aware that it has an Italian sibling. Primitivo. I’m taking you through the intertwined history of Primitivo and Zinfandel. Two grapes that for years, held the wine world in suspense. We’ll look at the flavor profiles, and some bottles to try. While these wines have unique characteristics and stories, we’ll uncover the truly special spunky siblings.  

The History of Zinfandel vs. Primitivo 

Primitivo is a black-skinned grape hailing from the sun-drenched vineyards of southern Italy. It has long been known for crafting bold, red wines. Its Californian alter ego, and today’s star, Zinfandel, boasts a reputation for producing ripe and jammy reds that have delighted palates worldwide. The curiosity surrounding these two grapes persisted for decades. They were initially believed to be distinct varieties separate from each other. However, they proved otherwise!

However, in the 1960s, the first whispers of their genetic similarities arose. Primitivo grapes, making a transcontinental journey to California, underwent studies that ultimately revealed their genetic identity with Zinfandel. However, the true revelation of their roots occurred in the 1990s when it was unveiled that both Primitivo and Zinfandel trace their ancestry to the rare Croatian grape variety, Crljenak Kaštelanski. This indigenous gem, with a name as elusive as its origins, serves as the proud parent to these sibling grapes, now making waves in vineyards around the world.

Zinfandel’s Californian Odyssey

Fast forward to the Golden State, where Zinfandel embarked on its own captivating journey. From the sun-kissed vineyards of Napa Valley to the rugged landscapes of Paso Robles, Zinfandel has found its true home in the diverse terroirs of California. The grape’s versatility shines, offering robust, jammy expressions from Dry Creek Valley and more restrained, peppery versions from Amador County.

Uncorking a bottle of Zinfandel is an invitation to explore the essence of terroir, with each region contributing its unique character to the wine. From hearty barbecue to savory pasta, the bold flavors of Zinfandel create a symphony of tastes, making it the perfect companion for a variety of dishes.

Uncork These Bottles: Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2019, Black Chicken Zinfandel 2021, Eastside Zinfandel 2021, Turley Fredricks Vineyard Zinfandel 2020

Italian Landscapes and Primitivo

Picture the rolling hills of Puglia, Italy, bathed in the warm embrace of the Mediterranean sun. It was in this picturesque landscape that Primitivo found a new home in the 18th century, arriving in Manduria, a commune on the heel of Italy’s boot. Countess Sabini di Altamura introduced this grape as part of her dowry in 1881, forever altering the course of Primitivo’s history.

Italian Primitivo wines are known for their inky richness, moderate tannins, and rustic charm. With bold flavors of blackberry, plum, and earthy notes, these wines often carry a higher alcohol content, showcasing the depth of their character. Older vines, though yielding fewer grapes, contribute to the creation of intense and long-lived wines that pair exquisitely with rustic Italian dishes, such as pasta puttanesca and rich meat dishes.

Uncork These Bottles: 60 Sessantanni Old Vines Primitivo di Manduria, Baruch Primitivo 2016,  Angioino Primitivio Di Manduria 2020 

As we clink glasses on National Zinfandel Day, let’s also celebrate its history with vibrant Primitivo! Make today more than just another national day on your calendar—make it a day to revel in the bold, the beautiful, and the downright delicious. So, as you uncork a bottle, savor the moment, and raise your glass to the multifaceted charm of Zinfandel and Primitivo. Cheers to these remarkable sibling grapes and the joy they bring to glasses around the world!

Haven’t tried Zinfandel? Get. A. Glass!



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