A history of Primitivo
The Wine that Almost Wasn't Nothing compliments a peppery steak better than an aged glass of primitivo wine, particularly that of a 62 Anniversario Primitivo Di Manduria. However, the primitivo grape might have gone the way of many different Italian varietals and disappeared completely if it weren't for a few shrewd Americans in the 1800's who launched their name for it, zinfandel, into a major advertising campaign.
Genes 62 Anniversario Primitivo Di Manduria has a rich and winding history. The genes of primitivo grapes were originally traced to Croatia and Hungary. The Americans who first advertised the grape called it the "Black Zinfandel Grape of Hungary." When looking at current varietals grown, the Croatian grape called "Crljenak Katelanski" from the Dalmatian coast comes genetically closest to being an ancestor. There may have been closer relatives, but a rootstock disease in 2001 wiped out a number of small varieties and has, unfortunately, forever lost the evidence.
Italy's Influence In Italy, the primitivo grapes were originally grown in the Puglia region in the 18th century, where the first DOC was created. A second DOC appeared in the late 19th century as a part of the dowry of Countess Sabini of Altamura. Though these DOC's did fine, the wine did little on its own to gain world recognition, and continued to remain small local table wines for over a century. Americas The first rootstock was sold to the Americas via the Imperial Nursery in Vienna, Austria. This had likely been brought there after Austria gained control of the Croatian territories during the Hapsburg monarchy.
The first US Sale was in Boston in 1830, where it was called Black Zinfandel. The same grape made it to California by 1850, called the "Black St Peters" where it was mistaken to be from England. The mistake was realized by 1870, and it regained its proper American name. The grapes did well until 1920, where many roots were ripped up during the nation's dry period known as prohibition. The Rise of the "American" Zinfandel Grape California resumed winemaking beginning in 1933, when prohibition was repealed. The Zinfandel grape was rediscovered in the 1970's, and though there were thoughts that the grape had come from Hungary, its origins were almost completely forgotten.
American wine writers touted the grape as its own original varietal. It took a visit to Italy from a UC Davis professor to rediscover the truth. A genetic test proved that the two were a genetic match, and the almost forgotten Italian Primitivo grape was given a spotlight on the world wine stage. As you try a lovely bottle of 62 Anniversario Primitivo Di Manduria, taste its smooth beginning, robust middle, and peppery aftertaste. And remember that this was almost a pleasure the world missed out on.