On Monday 15th September the WING group met to taste Primitivo, courtesy of Rob.

This is the first time I had ever attended a tasting focusing entirely on this grape, so I was unsure how the wines might show. Of course many, like me, would have first been acquainted with the grape in its Californian incarnation – as Zinfandel. In fact I don’t think I had ever tasted a 100% Primitivo from Italy until after I had discovered it was the same grape as ZIn… Until then only as a blended grape (with Negroamoro, Malvasia Nero…) in Puglian Wines – especially form the Salento.

Zinfandel is usually a rich dark wine with a soft  briary fruit palate, a hint of spice and high alcohol – for me: a good bet with Bangers and Mash, although some classy high end wines are more interesting. The Italian examples are usually darker, more tannic and tend to more plummy fruit – in my, limited, experience.

Rob served us one Zinfandel, 4 Puglian examples and a French example from the Côtes de Thongue. Here are my notes in the (random) order of serving:

Amanti del Vino 2012 (Salento)  – 13% –  (£7.60 Weavers) Sweet almond / plum nose, slightly spirit (Cherry Brandy?) note. Some oak – but not unbalanced IMO – supple but some structure and a bit sweet. OK and very good value. “Stella” Primitivo di Manduria 2011 – 14% – (£14 Harrogate) Soapy – washing up liquid – first note, later a burnt, slightly meaty or liverish note. Palate: dark and dry with slightly sweet fruit. A bit short and less impressive than the previous wine despite the price difference…

Uvaggio Napa Zinfandel  – 14% –  (£10 Wine Soc.) Quiet nose, but hints of bramble and a touch of spice. Palate has sweet bramble fruit too, but some restraint and grainy tannins. Quite satisfying and balanced. My (and others’) favourite on the night, and good value! “Li Veli Orion” 2012 (Salento) – 14% –  (£14 Corks Out) Similar to second wine in having a soapy nose, but some fruit – sweet plums or damson on the nose. Palate has simple sweet fruit and a lot of tannin – seems un-integrated as yet and might benefit from a year or two.

Archidamo, Re di Sparta (Manduria)  – 14%  – (£9.50 Wine Soc) Farmyard at first, bottle stink and a medicinal and apple slightly oxidized note. Sweet plummy fruit, some wood and a slightly not-at-its-best astringency too. Disappointing – though unfair to evaluate an off bottle?

Zinfandel de L’Arjolle 2011 (Côtes de Thongue) – 14.5%  –   (£13.50  Wine Soc) Bittersweet nose, plums and bitter chocolate? Lots of tannin, lots of sweet bold blackcurrant and berry fruit and herby – garrigue – tones. Very big – could pass for a Cabernet blend… Easy to identify but not as balanced as the Californian Zin, IMO.

An interesting set of wines – odd that the favourite was the sole Californian, and I’m not sure I yet get what the quality/price payoff is in Puglia…. Thanks for the tasting, Rob.