Primitivo is a dark-skinned grape known for producing inky, tannic wines, particularly Primitivo di Manduria and its naturally sweet Dolce Naturale variant. A classic Primitivo wine is high in both alcohol and tannins, intensely flavored and deeply colored. In Manduria, the fortified liquoroso variants often reach an ABV of 18%, which is dulled to 14% in the table wines. A certain bitterness is often found in Primitivo which, combined with its mouth-puckering tannins, means that it needs a few years in either bottle or barrel.
Although there have been contentious and long-running debates about the varietys geographical origins, there is little question that Primitivos modern-day home is in southern Italy, particularly Puglia. It probably arrived there from the coastal vineyards of Croatia (just across the Adriatic Sea), where it is still grown today, under various tongue-twisting names including Tribidrag and Crljenak Kasteljanski. In the early 19th Century, the variety was introduced to the United States, under the name Zinfandel. It proved extremely successful there, earning a reputation as the American national grape. It caused significant consternation on both sides of the Atlantic when DNA analysis proved that Zinfandel and Primitivo were the same variety.