What is Primitivo?  

Primitivo/Tribidrag/Zinfandel is a red grape variety originally from Croatia that has carved deep-rooted, independent identities for itself in both southern Italy and California. 

What does Primitivo taste like?  

Primitivo is known for full-bodied wines bursting with ripe black cherry, damson and briary berry fruit, sometimes tipping over into a raisined, porty style – the variety is prone to high alcohol levels. This richness is often complemented with flavours of tobacco and spice. As Zinfandel in California, the variety is also popularly made in a lighter white or rosé “blush” style, featuring lower alcohol with ripe, tropical and strawberry fruit in an off-dry style. 

Where is Primitivo from? 

Primitivo originated on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, where it is called Tribidrag or Crljenak Kaštelanski. The variety travelled from here to the heel of Italy, as well as making a later, rather better documented journey to the US via the Austrian imperial nursery in Vienna. It reached the East Coast in the 1820s, then followed the Gold Rush to California in the mid-19th century. 

Where does Primitivo grow? 

By far the most Primitivo is grown under the name Zinfandel in California, where it is the state’s second most planted grape variety with some increasingly valued parcels of very old vines. It is made as a red wine but also as a medium-sweet, rosé style, generically referred to as ‘White Zinfandel’. In Italy, Primitivo’s main home is Puglia, where it has been documented since the 17th century. The variety’s main, most prestigious Puglian sources are Gioia del Colle and Manduria. Some Primitivo is also planted in nearby Campania. The popularity of Zinfandel in the US has led to small plantings beyond its Californian heartland. Croatia has also seen an enthusiastic resurgence of Tribidrag plantings since the Zinfandel link was made in 2001. The variety’s ability to thrive in a hot climate has led to enthusiastic plantings in Australia, as well as a smaller scale presence in South America and South Africa. 

Famous Primitivo regions: 

  • Gioia del Colle & Manduria, Puglia, Italy
  • Sonoma, Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Lodi & Amador County, California, US 

Anything else?  

The name Primitivo means “early ripening” as the grape is generally picked earlier than other Puglian varieties. 

Our selection of great Primitivo  

-   Seghesio, Sonoma, California 

-   Ridge Vineyards, Sonoma & Paso Robles, California 

-   Racemi, Primitovo di Manduria, Puglia 

-   Fatalone, Gioia del Colle, Puglia

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