Primitivo: A return to the old ways

Primitivo is practically synonymous with Puglia and the south of Italy. Yet it is taking a plucky band of pioneers to re-establish it in its truest form, as a bush vine. Monty Waldin reports

A taste of bush-vine Primitivo

Morella, Old Vines, Salento Rosso 2011
19.5pts/20 (98/100pts)
85 year-old vines.
This was a low-yield year and produced super-concentrated grapes. Fermented as whole grapes rather than crushed berries to accentuate the fine flavours of black fruit and liquorice. The grapes were gently hand plunged, the wine was run off into barrel by gravity, and bottled by hand. Incredible depth, elegance and moreishness of fruit, with classy tannins running right the way through to leave one’s palate invigorated and refreshed. A monument to old-vine Primitivo.
Price: £34.95 Berry Bros & Rudd
Drink 2016-2026
Alc 14.5%

A Mano, Imprint of Mark Shannon, Appassito, Puglia Rosso 2012
19pts/20 (96/100pts)
40-70 year-old vines.
An inventive red made from Primitivo grapes picked ripe but not overripe which are then left to dry off the vine after picking. They shrivel slightly and gain in concentration. Wonderful balance of savoury tannins and sweet-tasting, fresh crushed raspberry fruit, with an intentionally light spritz. Reminds me of the best Zinfandels that old-timer growers in northern California would make in the 1970s for home consumption. Unputdownable.
Price: £12.99 Widely available via UK agent, Liberty Wines
Drink 2015-2022
Alc 14.8%

Cantele, Fanòi Primitivo, Puglia Rosso 2010
18pts/20 (93/100pts)
40 year-old vines.
A wine which pushes Primitivo’s moreish dark fruits and brighter red cherry flavours to the fore thanks to a cool and quickish fermentation. Ageing in new and second-fill French and American oak barrels has added an appealing sheen of vanilla.
Price: N/A UK cantelevini.com
Drink 2015-2020
Alc 14.5%

Fatalone, Primitivo Riserva, Gioia del Colle 2006
18pts/20 (93/100pts)
16 year-old vines propagated from Primitivo owned by the Petrera family since the early 19th century.
Aged in a cool underground cellar for two years in oak vats. 2006 was a blisteringly hot year, producing ripe, almost raisiny fruit with sweet-savoury tannins giving this appealing mouthfeel. Opens up to reveal soft tobacco textures and crisper red cherry flavours. A winter warmer.
Price: £16.68-£18.50 Exel Wines, Les Caves de Pyrène
Drink 2015-2021
Alc 15%

Savese, Il Sava, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale 2007
18.5pts/20 (95/100pts)
50-60 year old vines.
The grapes are picked late when slightly shrivelled on the vine for concentration. Aged for two years in large oak vats and sealed in locally handmade terracotta amphorae. Rich, smooth and slightly sweet with individual, savoury Christmas cake flavours and generous, rich mouthfeel. A Primivito like grandad used to make.
Price: £26 Bat & Bottle
Drink 2015-2018
Alc 16%

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