Primitivo di Manduria is a heavy, blunt red wine, an effect of the warm growing conditions in Southern Italy’s Apulia region. It is made from the locally grown Primitivo grape (also known as Zinfandel).
Along with the Castel del Monte DOP in northern Puglia and the Salice Salentino DOP in the south, the Primitivo di Manduria DOP is one of Puglia’s best-known denominations world-wide. The denomination wine is produced in the heart of Puglia’s Magna Grecia region, in various communes in the province of Taranto, among them the best-known town, Manduria, which gave its name to the entire denomination. While some claim that the Primitivo grape is originated in ancient Greece and been brought over by some of the first settlers of the Italian peninsula, recent research based upon DNA has shown it to be genetically identical to a Croatian varietal.
The growing area is characterised by two types of landscape, both fairly flat, the Arco Jonico (the Ionian Arch) and the Salento peninsula. The terroir here is typical of southern Puglia: hot, dry and with unremarkable coastal topography largely consisting of plains sloping very gently down to the sea. Interestingly, the zone of Manduria comprises a territory which stretches from red ferrous soil to limestone and soft sand near the coast.
The vines are cultivated with the ‘alberello’ method, an ancient technique where the grapes grow on three branches no longer than a metre and a half.
The vineyards here are ancient, and share the land with endless olive groves; Puglia is known as a prolific source of both olive oil and wine. Although once the typical local wines tasted as baked and featureless as the land itself, the depth and complexity of the top Primitivo di Manduria is now gaining international recognition. Introduced in 1974, Primitivo di Manduria is among the oldest of the 15-or-so DOCs in Italy’s ‘heel’. In 2010, a naturally sweet version of the wine, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale, made history when it became Puglia’s very first DOCG. Primitivo di Manduria DOC is made from 100% Primitivo grapes (unlike other Primitivo wines, like Gioia del Colle Primitivo, which are blends). This wine is also characterized by an unusually high alcohol by volume percentage – around 14%. Primitivo has an intense red colour which can also be a brilliant purple when young. Red fruits and fruits of the forest characterize its flavour with a surprisingly persistant finish for such less structured wines.