Primitivo is the main grape of Puglia, the ‘heel’ of Italy in the south.
The name is derived from the Latin word ‘primativus’ and the old Italian word ‘primaticcio’, both of which mean ‘first to ripen’ or ‘early ripening’. Indeed, all the growth stages of this variety are early, from flowering to colour change. It is also one of the first grape varieties to be harvested in Italy, which for Puglia, its main growth region, is August.
The typical grape cluster is small and elongated, loose with round berries. The grape is sensitive to humidity and mound, as the skin is quite thin and delicate. Not a productive vine, it has a tendency to over ripen very rapidly. Even if harvested just a few days late, the grape would shrivel, leading to a loss of acidity and fresh flavours.
A cousin of Zinfandel, Primitivo wines are pleasantly fruity, with ripe berry character. Full-bodied body with high alcohol, it has a cherry-scented bouquet which often consists of sour and black cherries, and sometimes even raspberry. Depending on the type of soil on which the vine is grown, the grape may sometimes have a spiciness to it.