Today’s Wine Word: Primitivo


My brother-in-law was at the grocery store picking up some things for dinner and called to ask whether he should buy the Old Vine Zinfandel or the Primitivo – same brand. My answer was that if the price is the same, flip a coin, because Primitivo is another name for Zinfandel.

In 2002, DNA fingerprinting revealed that Zinfandel’s origins are in Croatia, of all places. They traced it back to a rare variety known as Crljenak Kaštelanski – try to pronounce that one after a few glasses of Zinfandel – or even before šŸ˜‰

From Croatia it traveled to southern Italy, where they call it Primitivo. Most of it is found in Puglia, the heel of the boot. It also made its way to the east coast of the US as a table grape (for eating) and, eventually, to California where it became a wildly popular wine grape. It was the most planted variety in California prior to prohibition and it’s #3 today.

TRIVIA! In California we used many, many different names used for it – Black St. Peters, Zinfendal, Zeinfandall, Zenfenthal – before settling on Zinfandel.

Italian producers have begun using the name Zinfandel when they export to the US, which irritates the heck out of the people at ZAP – Zinfandel Advocates and Producers – a California-based promotional organization. But, the Italians are legally within their rights.

Now, why would Aimée Winery market a Zinfandel and a Primitivo? Good question. When I went in search for an answer, the brand doesn’t seem to have a website (what’s up with that?!). My conclusion is that, most likely, clonal differences separate the two wines. It just means that the vines may have the same DNA but they don’t look exactly like each other and the grapes don’t necessarily taste a the same.

As to my brother in-law? He came home with the Old Vine Zin, which was absolutely delicious! Cheers!

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