Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Primaterra 2007 Primitivo
Primitivo is the Italian name for Zinfandel (both are genetically related to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kaštelanski). I love Zinfandel; it's one of the first varietals I really identified as something I could always enjoy for it's big, brash fruitiness, touch of peppery spice and overall easy drinking wine. Zinfandel is the party grape, best embodied by the yearly ZAP fest - the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers tasting that takes place at San Francisco's Fort Mason.
If you think wine tasting events are snooty, then just come to this event (next one is Jan. 28-31, 2009). Imagine hundreds of wineries pouring thousands of wines in two large warehouse-like settings, packed with people. Madness ensues. The whole crowd erupts in cheers when someone drops their glass on the floor and it shatters. Sure, some of the people here would fit in nicely at this site, but overall everyone seems attractive and friendly. Actually, the place is filled with beautiful people. Oh how pretty. I've been urging my single friends to check this event out.
I stumbled out of my first ZAP fest like three years ago in a wine buzz that didn't wear off for days. The next time I attended this event, I went as a journalist for the press preview (held a few hours before they let the zoo animals in) and made sure to spit instead of sip. I left sober, content with all the wines I was able to evaluate and generally happy not to be waiting in line like everyone else (you may be thinking "borrrrring!" but I really love wine, and to be able to taste dozens of bottles and decide which ones I might purchase in the future makes me excited. Plus I'm a parent now, so I'm not really allowed to have too much fun as it is anyway.)
So, back to the subject at hand, the Primaterra 2007 Primitivo. I bought this for under $10 at Cost Plus World Market. I was searching for cheap interesting wine, and I had tried a Primitivo at the Golden Glass tasting in San Francisco this summer (mostly Italian wines). I really enjoyed that wine, it had the nice fruit and spice I'm used to in an American Zin, but was restrained in an "Old World" way.
The Primaterra has an alcohol level of 13.5%, which would be mocked and laughed at by its American Zin cousins for being a teetotaler. I've actually stopped buying Zins for the fact that many of them are super alcoholic (15%, 16%, 17%!) and taste like heavy, liquored fruit. Not so enjoyable.
This wine, from Puglia (Apulia - the heel of Italy's boot) is labeled Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) - the second rank of Italian wine above table wine, and similar to France's Vin de Pays (country wine - also one step above table). It's appearance is inky dark with purple tinges at the edges. On the nose I get raisins, dried fruits and figs. These scents are present in the glass, and there's a real baked fruit quality and heavy raisin component. I also got blackberry jam and raspberry liquor.
The raisin taste indicates these grapes had a long hang time and were super ripe when picked. Its a flavor you're going to find in big American Zins. It also usually indicates a high alcohol level, since the riper the grape, the more sugar present, and higher sugar levels means more for the yeast to convert to alcohol. So I'm not really sure what's going on here. The website doesn't have much more info either on how the grapes were grown, except to say they were grown at 200m above sea level and that 40% were aged in new oak, 60% in stainless steel.
My friend Rob tried this with me a few days ago and got marzipan and vanilla.
Overall, I'd skip this wine. It's cheap and not bad, but not really that interesting.
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