The Heel Of The Boot
I have done quite a few stories about the difference between California Zinfandel and Primitivo Di Manduria. As you can see by the map above, Puglia and the town of Manduria are located on the Heel of The Boot of Italy, directly on the Ionian and Adriatic Seas. It’s been a battle forever that was finally settled from a DNA Study conducted at UC Davis in California that the two grapes thought to be similar were exactly the same DNA. To sum the study up : Genetically, these two grapes are extremely similar—it took some DNA fingerprinting to figure it out—but Primitivo and Zinfandel are identical and are actually both clones of a Croatian grape called Crljenak. The question I always ask and my guests ask is “Do they TASTE the same”? Only one person I know could prove that to me and that would be the only Non-American on the California Board of Zinfandel Producers, Gregory Perrucci.
The Pope Of Primitivo
I have written many times about the world’s authoritarian on this grape down in Manduria, Gregory Perrucci. I have been to California many times and I have been several times down to Manduria. I have never seen any of the areas in California have a terroir like the Alluvium Soil or Red Sand and Clay Soils that Gregory is pictured standing on. Also, most California Zins are made in the Desert such as Alexander Valley, or Dry Creek Valley and Manduria is right on the Ionian Sea where temperatures are a little cooler. Wouldn’t it be crazy as an experiment, if Gregory could collaborate with a major California Zinfandel Producer and get some cuttings from there and plant them in Manduria and see if the wines taste like Primitivo or like California Zinfandel ? Not so crazy …He Did!!! A Fun and unique partnership brought a new wine to Manduria Felline from Manduria and Ridge from the Dry Creek Valley collaborated. Ridge gave the cuttings from their Geyserville Vineyards and Gregory Planted them in Manduria to bring this experiment to fruition.
2015 Sinfarosa Zinfandel, Manduria I.G.P.
Even though Zinfandel And Primitivo are identical twins this wine has cuttings from California but made in Manduria. The front label calls it Zinfandel but the Rear Label calls it Primitivo di Manduria!. European labeling laws are different, so European wineries may call Primitivo “Zinfandel” and vice versa, but American wineries may not. In 2002, a proposal was made to allow the names to be interchangeable in the United States, but it has not has been acted on. Yet!
I had just recently tasted the 2016 Felline Giravolta Primitivo di Manduria and I so wanted to prove to all the California Zin Drinkers that this experiment would prove that even if you take cuttings from Dry Creek Valley and you plant them in the unique Alluvium Soils of Manduria the wine would be undetectable as California and 100% Manduria. It sadly didn’t!!! The 2016 Giravolta I tasted with my colleagues was everything you could ask from the Pope Of Primitivo for it’s modern style but yet it’s elegance and finesse of an Old World Wine.
The 2015 Sinfarosa (FYI Praised by 3 Glasses Gambero Rosso as one of Italy’s Best Zinfandels) is a dark ruby in color with minimal variation of light purple on the edge. Medium plus body. Zinfandel or Primitivo can be difficult when it comes to restraining the sugar levels and therefore the Alcohol levels. Usually in Manduria from the coolness near the sea they control it but this wine comes in at 15% ABV. Other reviewers say it is not noticeable but to this reviewer it is very noticeable. Aromas lift up from the glass within 2 inches of the glass, of very almost sweet ripe cherries with a welcomed dark chocolate backdrop and very prominent black pepper. Is the grape really spicy or am I smelling 15% Alcohol? Since I tasted the South African Black Pearl and many others at 15% Alcohol and didn’t get a spicy burning I am assuming in this wine it is the Alcohol. On the palate a juicy mouth full of overripe sweet cherries, blackberries, plums, and black currant with a balanced acidity that allowed the saving grace of the wine for my personal palate, grippy tannins and oregano and sweet tobacco on the back end finish. Day 2 the wine after many more hours of opening and swirling opened up that it became much more enjoyable. The wine is well made but certainly more of a California Zin than a Mandurian Primitivo. I will score this 87 out of 100.
I think Sinfarosa was a much needed project to always keep the connection alive between American Zinfandels mostly made in California and The Primitivo di Manduria. I can tell you at $21.99 you will not find ANY California Zinfandel that will come close to this quality to price ratio if that is your style preference. In fact you will be hugging me if you are buying $30-$40 Zins from Dry Creek Valley. For me personally, I like the more old world charm and a tad less alcohol and sweetness that the Felline Giravolta provides. Both wines are made by the Maestro of Manduria Gregory Perrucci and both have a place on Retail Wine Shelves or Restaurant Wine Lists. Gregory, your dedication to this grape varietal and passion for it among others, never ceases to amaze me. We have now proved that the DNA is exactly the same but the flavor profile is totally different. Great for Backyard BBQ’S!