2016 Vespa ‘Il Rosso dei Vespa” Primitivo di Manduria
Many Americans make the assumption that Zinfandel is a purely home-grown domestic grape.
And they’re actually wrong.
There is even a legend about Agoston Haraszthy magically creating Zinfandel in the rolling hills just outside of Healdsburg, Sonoma County. That’s totally incorrect, too (although it is true that Agoston founded a vineyard in Wisconsin, near Prairie du Sac, then became what’s considered the Father of California Wine, and much later in life, was eaten by a crocodile in Nicaragua).
What is true about Zinfandel is that it is delicious everywhere it is planted, and it has covered a lot of ground.
Looking back, Zinfandel was first brought to America from the Imperial Austrian Nursery in Vienna. It landed on Long Island and was a mid-19th century sensation in Boston, where it was known as Black Saint Peter, for its rich, early ripening fruit.
But it’s not native to Austria (at least not present-day Austria). The Imperial Nursery’s cuttings were Croatian, where it was and is known as Crljenak Kaštelanski.
Zinfandel, or at least Crljenak Kaštelanski, migrated across the Adriatic Sea, from Croatia, to Italy. There it spread up and down the eastern coast, until it reached the town of Liponti, just outside Gioia del Colle, in Puglia (the heel of the Italian boot) sometime in the late 18th century.
A priest (whose name is lost in the empty wine bottles of time) noted how our Zinfandel was always the first to ripen in his vineyard. He named the variety Primitivo, from the Latin Primativus, or first to ripen. And while all this history is fun, I find drinking is the best way to get an education. Especially from great Primitivo:
The Vespa Primitivo di Manduria has glass-saturating ruby color and opens with an intense expression of black currants, dried figs, cinnamon and vanilla wood. Harmonious and velvety on the palate, the taste sensations evolve into a rich Rainier-cherry aroma intermixed with nutty spices and caramelized fruit. The finish gives you a classic sense of a beautiful Adriatic sunset – mellow, warm, and with a rich abundance of the good life.
This Italian beauty was originally released at $35, yet because of the way the world went last year, it’s now in need of a happy home. We struck one heck of a deal – so load up for all those future pizza nights!
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