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Varvaglione 12 e Mezzo Primitivo dal Salento

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Country/State Italy

Region Puglia

Subregion Salento


Type Primitivo

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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 east coast, until it reached the town of Liponti, just outside Gioia del Colle, in Puglia (the heel of the Italian boot) some time 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 Varvaglione Primitivo 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 Ranier-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. As the 12 e Mezzo name suggests, the perfect time to start drinking Primitivo is half past noon – and if you do, certainly don’t stop!

This drinks like a $25 California Zinfandel, and if it didn’t have the funny name and long history to explain, it would be priced like one, too. Think of it as the Italian side of the extended Zinfandel family, and amare with abandon. Cheers!  

P.S. - Why the somewhat funny, or longer name?

The current scions of the Varvaglione family - Marzia, Angelo and Francesca – all women under 30, wanted to update the style of the wine and labels. Wine: bringing the wine down to a fresh, easy drinking 12.5% non-jammy style. Labels: all developed from the fashion industry, where these charismatic women first worked before returning home to run the family estate.