Primitivo di Manduria is a DOC zone in the Puglia region of Italy. Primitivo is not only grown within the Manduria region of Italy, in fact, some of the very best Primitivo is registered as ITG wine grown outside of the DOC zone around the Brindisi region. Gambero Rosso’s current Primitivo beau Tenute Rubino are a great example of award winning Tre Bicchiere Primitivo grown outside the zone.
I chat about Primitivo constantly. It’s a miracle to me that the best examples of this wine are retailing under €20. I regularly enjoy the Racemi, A-Mano and Feudi di San Gregorio Primitivo wines and the buzz is beginning to spread. Puglia is best known for it’s cone shaped Trullo houses, rotten economy and expanding tourist industry but the wines of Puglia are being pushed into the spotlight with Primitivo leading the charge. They’re very proud of Primitivo in Puglia, so much so there is an interesting museum devoted entirely to it in Manduria.
Primitivo is an early ripening grape and down here in Puglia it’s a fairly easy grape to cultivate. An alcoholic wine (typically between 13.5-14%) the challenge to producers is less about ripening and more about fruit/alcohol balance. The worst Primitivos can be atrocious because of this mismanaged equation and I mean down the sink atrocious. Careful wine slurpers, see the recommendations below!
Primitivo, in its finest expression is a delightful wine, full bodied, jammy with tones of chocolate and raisins. If you enjoy fruity wines, and of course, if you enjoy Zinfandel, a close relative of Primitivo, then you will love these wines. You can pick up respectable Primitivo for under €5, like all the wines published here, I want to tell you about the very best producers.
There have been some excellent vintages down here in Primitivo land, the wine can stand some ageing but generally speaking it’s a wine to drink young. Look out for ’04 vintage for the younger wines and from the best producers you can get great value from the ’96, ’97 and ’01s. Below is my personal “Top 5” Primitivo producers.
Feudi di San Gregorio – Them again! The famous Campanian powerhouse has moved into the Primitivo scene creating an explosive wine netting a 92 AG point score. The highest for any Primitivo in the Parker guide. An achievement indeed considering the wine has been produced for less than 10 years.
A-Mano – American, Mark Shannon takes care of A Mano vino and it’s certainly a labour of love. The A Mano range is show stopping and I haven’t seen it fail yet, even in the lesser vintages. It’s an American Primitivo if ever there was one, aged in American oak. If you don’t have the brain space to waste remembering what years are good and bad then just remember the A Mano brand and you’ll be aye-ok.
Accademia di Racemi – Another new producer (1998) that raced to the top. This entry is a little personal. I love the Felline Primitivo in an unnatural and scary way. I love the price, I love that I can get it in the supermarkets and I loved the ’05. €8 and 90 points. Bargain. Buy a case.
Castello Monaci – Traditional favourites with critics within Italy and without. The 2004 Primitivo Artas, with a cheeky 15% Negroamaro is perhaps the finest wine in the whole of Puglia, I haven’t seen a more expensive Primitivo than this one. It’s the flagship wine at Castello Monaci and has a sweet, delicious quality. Expensive it may be, but if you’re a Primitivo lover, this has to be tried.
Tenute Rubino – Producing the only Primitivo “Visellio” to nick 3 glasses in the Gambero Rosso awards last year Tenure Rubino can feel very smug, and so can you because the wine is great value. An “old boy” in these parts, the company has been operational since the mid 80’s, Tenute Rubino also produce a 100% Susumaniello wine that scooped the 3B. Interesting winery, nice, media savvy, visitor friendly people, check them out.
There’s your top producers, but the best examples? Let’s do it!
Feudi di San Gregorio Ognissole Primitivo 2004 – €9 – BUY
Deep, penetrating red in the glass. Filling aromas of dark fruit, jam, and tar. Full bodied and thick on the palate, exactly what you’re looking for, jammy and luscious. Job done at €9, simple but tasty. 89 Points
A Mano Prima Mano 2003 – €8 – BUY
Nice dark, brooding ruby red in the glass. Super nose, pulls you in with aromas of dark fruit, esp blackcurrent, raisins, the wine actually smells hot/alcoholic and on the palate that theme continues thru to the finish. Lovely mouth feel, good raisin notes but the hot vintage isn’t the best example of A Mano, go ’04 or ’05. Drink it now. 88 Points
Racemi Felline Primitivo di Manduria 2005 – €8 – BUY
Dark intense ruby red with a powerful nose of sweet dark fruits, chocolate and vanilla, even hints of orange. Tannins are a little aggressive, mid-full bodied, a very fruity mid palate with the strawberries continuing through. Nicely alcoholic on the finish. Really surprising complexity to the wine – 90 Points
Castello Monaci Primitivo Artas 2005 – €17.50 – BUY
Dark ruby red. The nose is giving up an array of wonderful notes including spices, flowers, tobacco, leather and cherries. The mouth feel is excellent, pure silk and opulence, a very sweet wine with fine tannins and the longest Primitivo finish I’ve experienced. Good job. 91 Points
Tenute Rubino Primitivo Visellio 2004 – €16 – BUY
Dark and intense ruby colour. The bouquet is jumping out of the bottle. Fruity on the nose with cherries, forest fruits and a hint of chocolate. A rich and layered palate with a long finish and a flavour profile of cherry jam and mocha. Really tasty wine. 91 Points
I’m recommending all these wines?! Well yeah, I love Primitivo and these are the best producers in some great vintages. They are all QPR to the max, the last two are glorious.
Where can I buy this wine? (the Feudi di San Gregorio Ognissole)
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As always, please leave any comments relating to the article. I’d also like to hear about which grape variety is currently rocking your wine world? Are you partial to Primitivo, crazy for Cab Franc, ga-ga over Gewustraminer, spill?