As anybody who’s a regular visitor to the Xtrawine blog will already know, one of the Italian wine industry’s biggest selling points is the sheer variety it has to offer. The country contains dozens of wine regions, each of which is split into multiple DOC territories. On top of that, many of these regions contain producers who create wines independently of the DOC rules, leading to IGT wines and many others that have unique qualities of their own while being a little more experimental than the more rigid DOCs.
But it’s a DOC wine that we want to focus on in this article. And in particular, it’s a wine from one of the underappreciated regions of Italy that happens to use a popular grape that you may have heard of before. With that being said, this article aims to introduce you to the Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC.
Where is the Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC?
Nestled right at the top of the Murgia plateau, the Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC is located towards the south of Bari. It stands at about 320 metres above sea level and is located on what you might consider the ankle of the Italian boot.
Bari is one of the least appreciated areas of the Italian wine industry. Though it produces several wonderful wines, the city is not mentioned in the same way as more famous Italian cities, such as Venice, Florence, and Rome. Still, its hilly regions and location in the south of Italy expose the grapes grown there to warm Mediterranean temperatures that are ideal for certain types of grapes.
Primitivo is one of those grapes.
The Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC is considered by many to be the home of the Primitivo grape. While the grape didn’t originate there, it’s the Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC version of the grape that has become the most popular version. It’s also this region’s version of the grape that was imported to the United States, where it now accounts for about 10% of all wine produced in California.
If you know your American wines, that may sound a little strange to you.
You may know that there’s a certain grape that dominates Californian wine production. But that grape isn’t Primitivo.
It’s the far more famous Zinfandel.
What’s the Relationship Between Primitivo and Zinfandel?
This is an easy question to answer:
They’re the same grape!
The Zinfandel that is so popular in California made its way to the United States in the 19th century by way of the Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC region. Of course, the region didn’t carry the DOC label at that time as the organization that dictates DOCs didn’t exist yet. However, the region was still the home of this particular type of grape and had been since the 18th century.
So, why the name change?
It all seems to come down to a mix-up.
At about the same time that Primitivo was making its way to the United States, an Austrian grape called Zierfandler was doing the same thing. Early American winemakers ended up confusing the two grapes, leading to them thinking Primitivo was Zierfandler, They Americanised the name to Zinfandel and the rest is history. The most interesting part about this is that Primitivo essentially replaced Zierfandler in the country, even though it was sold using the name that Zierfandler inspired. The Austrian grape is now rarely used in the States, though the Primitivo Zinfandel grape is among the country’s most popular.
What Types of Wines Come from the Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC?
Generally speaking, a Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC will be a red wine that contains 100% of the grape. The DOC does not allow for the use of any other grapes, meaning the Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC is the purest form of Primitivo (or Zinfandel if you’re so inclined) that you are likely to find anywhere.
Interestingly, the Primitivo grape is not limited to the Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC. It’s also used in another red wine from Gioia del Colle named Rosso, where it’s often mixed with Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Negroamaro, or Malvasia Nera. Primitivo is also used in the region’s Rosato wine, where it is mixed with the same grapes as those found in Rosso. Some producers also use Primitivo to create dessert wines, including the Aleatico Dolce and the Aleatico Liquoroso Dolce.
Coming back to the Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC, the wine is a powerful red that delivers the full force of the Primitivo grape. It typically carries a mild fragrance, which might fool the inexperienced into thinking the wine is less complex than it really is. However, your first taste will reveal a rich red that can easily overpower milder types of food. The wine is best paired with red meats, with some even using it to pair with rich desserts. That’s particularly the case for the Gioia del Colle Primitivo Amabile DOC, which is a slightly sweeter version of the Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC that pairs well with cheeses and desserts.
The wine ranges in colour, with purples typically defining it when it’s younger. The wine grows into a more garnet colouring as it ages, though this is not a wine that has a long storage potential. It’s recommended that you drink a bottle of Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC within five years of its vintage to get the most out of it.
Despite its complexity, the wine is also surprisingly accessible. Granted, it has a strong alcohol percentage of 13%. However, it tends to be smooth and velvety in the mouth, inviting the drinker in for more.
The Final Word
Under its more common name Zinfandel, Primitivo is one of the most popular wine grapes in the world. But if you want to get a true taste of what this stunning grape has to offer, you need to go to the source. The Gioia del Colle Primitivo DOC is the original and best version of a Primitivo wine. It’s also ideal for those who want to experience the grape with no blends getting in the way.
Are you ready for that experience?
We have several of this type of wine in the Xtrawine collection. Find one today and we’re sure you won’t be disappointed.
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