Primitivo is a dark-skinned grape from ancient Croatia that colonised the heel of southern Italy, especially Puglia. Inky-dark with high alcohol and tannins, Primitivo (meaning first to ripen) thrives easily in Italy’s hot south to make reliably rich reds which, in more polished mid-level examples, show Primitivo’s special potential for voluptuously soft, enveloping dark fruits and spice - sometimes with an alluring whiff of anise and, oddly, white peach. Genetically identical to the American Zinfandel grape, the latter’s rising reputation has buoyed the fortunes of the originals - including Croatian Crljenak Kastelanski - with Italian Primitivo now approaching the notoriety of its more complex local rival, Negroamaro.
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