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Primitivo

The Primitivo variety is one of the great protagonists of the Apulian wine scene: it is an ancient red grape capable of producing intense, full-bodied and structured expressions. Its origins are uncertain and controversial, but it was certainly already closely linked to the winemaking traditions of Apulia in the 18th century. Its name ('primitive' in English) is derived from the early biological cycle of the grapes, recognisable by the typical blue colour of the skin and the traditional alberello training system, which tend to ripen early at the end of August. Today its best expressions are associated with the areas of Manduria and Gioia del Colle, where reds of great character and power are born. They are warm and textured, with rich and complex aromas, and are authentic expressions of sunny and generous lands.

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The Primitivo variety is one of the great protagonists of the Apulian wine scene: it is an ancient red grape capable of producing intense, full-bodied and structured expressions. Its origins are uncertain and controversial, but it was certainly already closely linked to the winemaking traditions of Apulia in the 18th century. Its name ('primitive' in English) is derived from the early biological cycle of the grapes, recognisable by the typical blue colour of the skin and the traditional alberello training system, which tend to ripen early at the end of August. Today its best expressions are associated with the areas of Manduria and Gioia del Colle, where reds of great character and power are born. They are warm and textured, with rich and complex aromas, and are authentic expressions of sunny and generous lands.

The Controversial Origin of Primitivo

The earliest written and undisputed evidence of Primitivo dates back to the mid-18th century, when Don Francesco Filippo Indellicati, regent of the Church of Gioia del Colle, noted that one of the vines grown on his land could be harvested as early as the end of August. For this reason, it was initially referred to as Primaticcio or Primitivus. From here, the name spread further south, to the province of Taranto, thanks to a noblewoman from Altamura who married a nobleman from Manduria. As part of her marriage, she brought a dowry of vine shoots of this variety, which produced such excellent results that Manduria was considered the ideal location for the cultivation and vinification of this grape.

However, the question of when and from where this grape variety used to produce Primitivo wine arrived in Apulia remains unanswered. According to one of the most reliable hypotheses, based on genetic studies, it was imported by the Illyrians more than 2000 years ago, at the time of the Roman Empire. It would therefore derive from an ancestor of the Plavac Mali grape, indigenous to the Dalmatian coast, in what is now Croatia. It is also closely related to a typical California grape called Zinfandel, which seems to have been introduced to American territory by migrants from Apulia in the 19th century.

A second suggestion is that the grape was brought to southern Italy in the 18th century by Benedictine monks from Burgundy, but there is no genetic evidence for this. In another fascinating hypothesis, the grape certainly originated in the Balkans, as confirmed by genetic studies, but was spread throughout the Mediterranean by the Phoenicians. The Apulian winemaking tradition is lost in the mists of time and archaeological excavations have brought to light ancient winemaking plants in the Brindisi area. Important evidence also emerges from classical Latin authors, including Horace, who praised the 'mera tarantina', comparing it to nectars from the Lazio region, and Pliny the Elder, who described the Manduria area as 'viticulosa', or full of vines.

To conclude, although we do not know when wine production began, it is certain that this variety of grape adapted to the Apulian territory in an extraordinary way, integrating perfectly with the ancient local traditions and obtaining extraordinary results.


The Best Production Areas

Alongside the wines born in Gioia del Colle, in different areas of Salento and throughout the region, the Primitivo di Manduria has become famous worldwide for the unique characteristics that this terroir gives to the production. The municipality that gave its name to the denomination is located in the province of Taranto, in an area that can be defined as northern Salento. Other important municipalities over which this denomination extends are Sava, Lizzano, San Marzano di San Giuseppe and other municipalities in the province of Taranto, along with some territories in the province of Brindisi.

Here the characteristic alberello vineyards are widespread, with some of them up to 80 years old and are cultivated with ungrafted vines. They produce a very moderate quantity of grapes but the quality is exceptional and the bunches are compact, juicy and rich in substance. The soils are flat and red in colour, with clays that give the grapes great substance and structure.

Another important production area for Primitivo is Gioia del Colle, where a biotype with genetic characteristics that differ from those of Manduria is cultivated. This is probably where the first stages of this variety of red grape of unclear origin were taken, later spreading with great success throughout the region. The area falls under the province of Bari and covers the mountainous Murge region.

Alongside these two famous terroirs, great red wines are produced throughout the rest of Apulia, from the Tavoliere to Salento, with outstanding results. Our expert sommelier recommends pairing these wines with very tasty traditional dishes. The younger and less evolved expressions can be paired with earthy dishes such as orecchiette al ragù, sliced meats and local salami, caciocavallo cheese and grilled meats.

The more intense, warm, full-bodied and structured expressions can be paired with very mature or blue cheeses, game, fried or baked lamb and very tasty red meats. On Callmewine you can find an excellent selection of wines on offer for sale online. Discover the best prices for Primitivo and buy it on our online wine shop.

Callmewine is an online wine shop specializing in the sale of wine, champagne and spirits.

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