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.
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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.
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 Wine-Searcher.com:
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.
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 Wine-Searcher.com:
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Friday, Oct. 8, 2004