I take great pleasure in walking into the pragmatic wine stores of Puglia and asking What’s the best Primitivo? Puglia being one of the largest wine-producing regions in the world, there are plenty of Primitivos to choose from (though 80% of all Puglia grapes are Negroamaro). After tasting so many, it's a pleasure to find a new one.
The Attanasio Winery in the town of Manduria produces only three wines and all three are 100% Primitivo. Two of their wines are “dolce” or sweet wines, leaving their “Primitivo di Manduria DOC” to accompany meals. The wine was recently recommended to me as the best Primitivo around and its price of 15-20 euro a bottle reflects this standing (when you can buy incredible Primitivos made by Racemi Winery or Consorzio Produttori for 7 euro, this jump in price means something).
I was very impressed by it: Kristin and I almost drank the entire bottle with only the cheese course.
It begins with a chewy nose (haha) of date, caramel, and dried fig. The first sip reveals quite a character, but he’s smooth and stable. The big flavors of hot spices and fig jam are withdrawn by tannins, which give the wine a firm structure and leave the mouth feeling clean. In other words, the wine seems capable of being sweet at first, but then the tannins suck it away. It’s medium bodied with a medium finish.
More eloquent than elegant, this wine’s passion for rhetoric makes it one of the best examples of Puglia’s terroir that I know (remember when I was writing about that, all the back in May). Puglia loves to make sweet wine, and the locals enjoy drinking sweet wine before, during, and after meals. This does not suit my American palate. But this wine does a magnificent job of being delicious while being well-structured. Its drinkability = the eat-ability of a bagel with cream cheese and jam. Or Kristin's incredible lasagna, made with homemade pasta.
One last note: Kristin and I have been reflecting on the fact that Pugliese Primitivos focus on ripe jam and silky mouthfeel while California Zinfadels are often jammy and SPICY. The Attanasio provides the spice flavor profile.