Wine Tasting Group – January 2019

Californian Zinfandel vs Italian Primitivo.

This was the first meeting for the 2019 theme of “New World, Old World”, which compares wine styles between Europe and the rest of the world.  In most cases the same grape has been grown in very different places and we are interested in the various effects that the different growing conditions, along with different vinification technologies, can cause.

Comparing Primitivo and Zinfandel, genetically, these two grapes are extremely similar—it took some DNA fingerprinting to figure it out—but Primitivo and Zinfandel are actually both clones of a Croatian grape called Crljenak.

Primitivo got its name because it ripens early (the name has nothing to do with the variety or its wines being ‘primitive’).

I have included quotes from either the website or the back of the bottle for the four wines we tasted, and then our own verdict.

  1. Peuceta Primitivo Puglia indicazione geografica protetta, 2017, 13.5%, Lidl £5.49. “Primitivo from southern Italy is a good choice for those looking for full-bodied, flavoursome reds – often excellent value too. This wine is juicy, bold and well balanced; with aromas of dark fruit and chocolatey oak. Enjoy with lasagne, burgers or meatballs.  This wine matches perfectly with our Italian meatball stew recipe or our curried roast chickpeas recipe.”  Produced and bottled in Italy.Had some fruit, but not much liked.  Rated 1.1, and the rest of the bottle sent off to be cooked with.
  2. Californian Zinfandel – Lodi “Ghost Vines” 2017, 14%, Aldi £6.29. “Situated in the North of California, Lodi is known as the Zinfandel capital of the world.  Made with grapes from old vines, this powerful wine is humming with heady aromas of plum, blueberries and sweet spice.  Rich bold flavours of soft dark fruits and hints of chocolate burst on the palate whilst vanilla and toasted spices linger on the finish.  A pleasure to drink by itself or with roasted red meats, cheese or even a BBQ’d burger.”  Also recommended in the Times.Smelt fruity, surprisingly light for a 14% alcohol wine, and it did not linger in the mouth. A good wine for a summer afternoon in the garden, with or without the barbecue.  Rated 1.9
  3. Surani Costarossa Primitivo di Manduria DOC 2017, 14%, £9.99 Majestic. Manduria – also in Puglia – is Primitivo’s spiritual home and the only viticultural area in Italy to specialise in the variety. “The sandy and clay soil, the intense light and the fresh breeze that gently blows from the adjacent sea, give to our Primitivo its distinctive character, with a complex structure and yet elegant aromas of extraordinary intensity.”A big wine with lots of fruit.  Smooth and long lasting.  The group’s favourite.  Rated 2.8
  4. Chronic Cellars “Dead Nuts” Paso Robles 2016, 14.4%, £16.66 Majestic. 73% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, 6% Tempranillo.  “Soft purple in colour. Strawberries and juicy blackberries on the nose with raspberries, black cherries, a hint of black pepper and an assortment of different baking spices in the glass. Mild acidity, a smooth palate, and light tannins on the finish are topped off with a hint of toasted vanilla.”  Majestic tags this wine “Simon loves this wine more than his children”.If we’d had this without anything to compare it to, we’d have been reasonably happy.  However, although it had some fruit, there was also some bitterness and this wine was nobody’s favourite.  Rated 2.2