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In This Issue
 Zin vs. Primitivo Primitivo prevails in this month's Wine Tasting 101 battle.
 A-Mano 2002 Puglia Primitivo ($10.59) Exuberant and fruity, delicious Primitivo in a Zinfandel style.
 Renwood 2002 "Sierra Series" Sierra Foothills Zinfandel ($10.99) Raspberry liqueur and furniture polish.
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Zin vs. Primitivo

This month's Wine Tasting 101 "battle" between a California Zinfandel and a Southern Italian Primitivo - genetically identical grapes with disparate historical and viticultural heritages - proved quite a match.

I chose the month's two "benchmark" wines - A-Mano 2002 Primitivo from Puglia and Renwood 2002 "Sierra Series" Zinfandel from California's Sierra Foothills - because of their similar vintage and price in the $10 range.

As it turned out, the Italian entry, a popular and widely available Primitivo brand, is made by an American in Italy and boasts a distinctly American style despite its Old World origins: Ripe and full of exuberant berry fruit, it's one of the most "Zin-like" Primitivos I've tasted. The California wine, conversely, seemed flawed, reeking of high-tone aromatics of volatile acidity that gave way to dense, vinous notes of raspberry liqueur.

In my "blind" tasting, the verdict was easy: The Primitivo by a knockout.

We'll continue this theme throughout October, so you're invited to taste these wines, or other Zins and Primitivos, and share your thoughts, comments and tasting notes with wine-loving peers online. Around the first of November, we'll announce a new tasting theme for the holiday season.

For our introduction to these two wines, and to begin participating in the online conversations in Wine Tasting 101, click to

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

A-Mano A-Mano 2002 Puglia Primitivo ($10.59)

Very dark reddish-purple, blackish. Scents of red and black berries add a slight herbaceous back note to present a classic Zinfandel aroma profile; full, bright, very-berry fruit on the palate continues the Zin-like pattern, although it's structured with lemon-squirt acidity that shows a bit more tang than you might expect in a fruit-forward New World wine, the first hint in "blind" tasting that this is the Primitivo. Good fruit, good balance, with appealing raspberry notes in a long finish. U.S. importer: Empson (USA) Inc., Alexandria, Va. (Oct. 1, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: Perfect with my favorite Zinfandel food match, quality rib-eye steak, seared just rare on the charcoal grill.

VALUE: Excellent value, blows away most New World Zinfandels at the $10 price point.

WHEN TO DRINK: Zin/Primitivo might gain some delicacy with age, and the tasters on our WT101 Forum are reporting good results with A-Mano as far back as 2000. Still, youthful exuberance is this grape's trademark, and it's mighty enjoyable when fresh.

Here's a link to the U.S. importer's A-Mano Web page:

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: A-Mano is widely distributed in the U.S. and the UK, and should be available at local wine stores. For online vendors, where the law allows, check

Renwood Renwood 2002 "Sierra Series" Sierra Foothills Zinfandel ($10.99)

This dark reddish-purple wine shows glints of reddish-orange against the light. A significant blast of volatile acidity ("VA") wafts from the glass, high-toned sweet aromatics that show an unfortunate kinship to furniture polish and shoe polish; a vinous note of raspberries is present but secondary. Ripe and bright berry fruit is more evident on the palate, dense and almost reminiscent of framboise. The VA fades a bit with time in the glass but never goes away entirely; the odd combination of shoe polish and raspberry liqueur falls well short of appealing. (Oct. 1, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: Char-grilled ribeye steak brings it around a bit, but nothing will really make those chemical-factory aromatics go away.

VALUE: No bargain.

WHEN TO DRINK: It's not going to get any better than this.

Renwood's Website requires the Flash plug-in to view the entry page,
To skip the intro and go straight to the home page, click:

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Renwood offers "Find Our Wines" information plus E-commerce sales (where the law permits) on its Website. To find vendors and check prices for Renwood wines on

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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Friday, Oct. 8, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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