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2 Zinfandel/Primitivo Taste Profiles You Will Love – The Ultimate Guide

Zinfandel_Primitivo
Zinfandel comes typically in 2 Red styles: Zinfandel in California and Primitivo in Italy. What’s your fav?

Zinfandel is a black grape that has gained popularity in both California and Italy. Its flavor ranges from red fruits to black fruit depending on its ripening. It grows best in warm climates.

The Red wines have full-body, high alcohol, with medium-high acidity and tannins. 

Have you ever found yourself staring at many Zinfandel bottles wondering which one you would like best? Keep reading and you’ll find the answer and much more! 

I’ve organized the content below in small sections to make it easy to read. I must confess I’m quite happy with the research and work done. As always wine tasting was my favorite part!😋

Use the table of content below to jump straight to the section. In this article you’ll learn more about: 

Keep reading to become a Zinfandel/Primitivo expert!

Zinfandel/Primitivo

Zinfandel/Primitivo Overview

Grape

Zinfandel / Primitivo

ABV

13%–17%

Main Regions

Italy: Puglia
USA: California (Napa, Sonoma)

Other Regions

Australia
Croatia
Mexico

Grape

Zinfandel / Primitivo

ABV

13%–17%

Main Regions

Italy: Puglia
USA: California (Napa, Sonoma)

Other Regions

Australia
Croatia
Mexico

Zinfandel/Primitivo Taste Profile

These are some of the most common aromas and flavors of Zinfandel/Primitivo.

Color

Medium Ruby

Nose

Violet
Strawberry, Raspberry (unripe)
Blueberry, Black Cherry, Plum (ripe)
Star Anise
Black Pepper
Peach Yogurt

Palate

Red Fruit Jam (unripe)
Black Fruit Jam (ripe)
Smoked Flavors (Syrah),
Tobacco, Vanilla
Spice, Graphite
Dry
Medium-High Acidity
Medium-High Tannins
Medium-Full Body

Color

Medium Ruby

Nose

Violet
Strawberry, Raspberry (unripe)
Blueberry, Black Cherry, Plum (ripe)
Star Anise
Black Pepper
Peach Yogurt

Palate

Red Fruit Jam (unripe)
Black Fruit Jam (ripe)
Smoked Flavors (Syrah),
Tobacco, Vanilla
Spice, Graphite
Dry
Medium-High Acidity
Medium-High Tannins
Medium-Full Body

Zinfandel/Primitivo Food Pairing

These are some food pairing suggestions for Zinfandel/Primitivo.

Appetitizer

Pizza Rustica
Spice Curry
Caramelized Onions

Meat

Quail, Turkey
Pork, Ham
Bacon, BBQ
Veal
Tandoori-Spiced

Fish

Blackened Salmon,
Spicy Tuna Tartare

Cheese

Semi-Hard (Cheddar),
Hard (Grana Padano),
Blue Cheese (Gorgonzola)

Appetitizer

Pizza Rustica
Spice Curry
Caramelized Onions

Meat

Quail, Turkey
Pork, Ham
Bacon, BBQ
Veal
Tandoori-Spiced

Fish

Blackened Salmon,
Spicy Tuna Tartare

Cheese

Semi-Hard (Cheddar),
Hard (Grana Padano),
Blue Cheese (Gorgonzola)

Serve and Store Zinfandel/Primitivo

Decant

30 mins

Glass

Bordeaux

Serve at

59 - 64 °F
15 - 18 °C

Store for

Up to 5 years

Decant

30 mins

Glass

Bordeaux

Serve at

59 - 64 °F
15 - 18 °C

Store for

Up to 5 years

Useful Insight

Regions and winemaking techniques influence Zinfandel taste profiles. Here is a quick overview of the main regions and what to expect:

  • USA (California) flavors: Black fruit (Black cherry, blackberry) black pepper, vanilla. 

  • Italy (Puglia) flavors: Black fruit (Black cherry, blue raspberry, plum), red fruit, cinnamon, black pepper, licorice.

A little bit of Zinfandel/Primitivo history

Zinfandel’s history is quite interesting and deserves to be told! 

Zinfandel grapes originated in Croatia around 6000 BCE and DNA wise are identical to Primitivo in Italy and Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag grapes in Croatia. 

In the 18th century, it was introduced in Puglia in Italy. It then arrived in the US in the 1820s and by the 19th century, it became the most popular variety in California. Up until the 1950s, Zinfandel was nearly forgotten following the Great Depression [1] and the Prohibition [2]. Finally, at the end of the 20th century red Zinfandel rose to popularity once again and today is widely planted in California.

What does Zinfandel/Primitivo mean?

Primitivo comes from the Latin “primativus” which translates into the “the first to ripen”.

Where does Zinfandel/Primitivo grow best?

Zinfandel/Primitivo grows best in warm and sunny regions. The grape ripening has a direct effect on the taste profile of the wine.

  • Under-Ripe / Cool Climates: red fruit (raspberry, red berry) flavors.

  • Ripe / Warm Climates: black fruit (blackberry, blueberry), anise, and black pepper flavors.

When is the perfect event to drink Zinfandel/Primitivo?

Are you hosting or going to a BBQ? Zinfandel/Primitivo is a great match for it!

Some curiosities about Zinfandel/Primitivo

  • There is an International Zinfandel day and it’s the 3rd Thursday in November. But Zinfandel has its own festival as well, the ZINEX [3].

  • In Italy, they produce a late harvest version which you must try! It’s called Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale [4].

  • This one is for the series: the swing of the pendulum! When in the 70s Zinfandel was popular in the US, Italian producers were selling Primitivo as Zinfandel in the US to benefit from its popularity. Primitivo is now rising in popularity and some Californian producers are now labeling their wines as Primitivo.

  • Zinfandel has a Rosé version too called White Zinfandel find out more here

What’s Zinfandel/Primitivo's typical price range?

Zinfandel/Primitivo is an affordable wine. You’ll find good quality wines for around:

    • $12-$20 price range for the Italian’s style.

    • $15-$30 range price for the Californian’s style.

What to do next?

Be sure to serve your Zinfandel/Primitivo at the right temperature. Read our wine tasting guide to enhance your tasting experience and taste like the pro! Alternatively, why don’t you check out our guides on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or the other red wines?

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