Primitivo is a black grape* from Croatia, well known under several synonyms such as Zinfandel, and Tribidrag.

Primitivo is known for its rich­ness in colours, tan­nins, and sug­ar. High in sug­ar means wines high in al­co­hol. Aromas and flavours are of ripe blackberries, and other dark skinned berries. Violets are common, sometimes you will also find pepper in there.

The wines talked about today are the Zinfandel’s from California and the Primitivos from southern Italy. In Italy, there are seven DOC:s, one DOCG, and numerous IGP:s covering production of Primitivo wine. Mostly they cover dry, red varietals. Some allow for the production of a rosé sparkling as well as a sweet wine. Interestingly, the only DOCG for Primitivo, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG only allows for sweet wine. Furthermore, it states an appassimento treatment of the grapes and a minimum residual sugar of 50 gr/l / ≈5,2 °Bx.

Under the name Zinfandel, Primitivo is the contender for being the signature red wine grape of California. Fruity with deep colour, high in alcohol, and tannins medium to medium low, it has become popular in many countries. As for the domestic market however, the White Zinfandel a semi-sweet rosé-like wine, is a lot more appreciated.

Food pairing
When it comes to food pairing, Primitivo is quite a versatile variety. It will pair excellently with various Pork, Beef, and Lamb dishes.

A light bodied wine will also be very nice with a creamy pasta dish such as a Pasta Carbonara. If serving a full-bodied wine, better serve at 16-18°C/61-64°F. If the wine is light bodied, a recommended serving temperature will be 14-16°C/57-61°F.

Where is it grown?
Primitivo is the thirtieth most planted grape on the planet. Plantings of 32.755 ha/80,938 ac were reported in 2010, corresponding to a twenty-two percent increase in ten years. Two countries cover some ninety-eight percent of the world-wide plantings.

In USA, the region with most plantings is California. In Italy, more than ninety percent is planted in the southern region Apulia.

  • USA 19.857 ha/49,068 (an increase of 7%). MPG 4, PTPA 9%
  • Italy 12.234 ha/30,230 ac (an increase of 56%), MPG 15
  • Tunisia 337 ha/832 ac, MPG 10
  • Australia 149 ha/369 ac, MPG 33

Furthermore, there are plantings reported from a number of countries, starting from 65 ha/160 AC and smaller (presented in order of decreasing acreage); Croatia, Chile, South Africa, Romania, Canada, New Zealand, France, Argentina, and Brazil.

Primitivo comes from the Dalmatian coast in Croatia, where it was mentioned as Crljenak Kastelanski as early as four-hundred years ago.

*The name Primitivo is also the name of another variety (the Italian grape Montepulciano), which has no known connection to the grape presented here.