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Wine Finds: Primitivo versus zinfandel

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Zinfandel was once thought to be native to the United States, but it’s identical genetically to Italy’s primitivo and both are descendants of an ancient Croatian grape variety. However, the wines produced by these grapes are usually quite different due to growing conditions and the winemaking process. Reds made from Californian zinfandel tend to be bold, spicy and extremely fruity with high levels of alcohol, but primitivo wines from Italy’s Puglia region are usually drier, more restrained and less alcoholic. The following are two examples.

Matané 2020 Primitivo, Puglia, ItalyBought • Wine and Cheese Place, 7435 Forsyth Boulevard, in January for $13.99

Description • Matané is a brand owned by importer Empson & Co., which began bringing Italian wines to the U.S. in 1971. The label depicts pizzica, a traditional local dance in Salento, connected to Dionysus (Bacchus), the god of wine. Made from 100% primitivo, this is a medium-bodied, well-balanced red with lots of finesse. Dry and savory, it’s an easy-to-drink red with soft tannins that tastes of red cherries, plums and notes of herbs and spices. This is a versatile wine that would go with eggplant parmesan, pasta dishes and just about anything.

Hierogram 2018 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, CaliforniaBought • Wine and Cheese Place, 7435 Forsyth Boulevard, in January for $14.99

Description • If you’re a fan of assertive, in-your-face zinfandel wines, try this powerful red from Precision Wine Co. Full-bodied, jammy and strongly flavored, it has a whopping 15.5% level of alcohol that you can definitely feel. A mouth-filling, complex red that received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast, it tastes of concentrated sweet ripe berries and has generous doses of black pepper and exotic spices. This is not a wine to be sipped on its own and instead it’s best enjoyed with hearty food and would go particularly well with barbecued meats.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch lists the best-reviewed wines of 2022. The list has been divided into sparkling, white and red wines.

Follow Gail on Twitter @GailAppleson.

Follow Gail on Twitter @GailAppleson.



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