09/30/09 – Primitivo (vs. Zinfandel)

By Jesse on September 27, 2009

Whenever a product originating in a foreign country gets adapted for an American audience, you never know what the results are going to be. Sometimes the American version is better (i.e. baseball, vastly superior to the old British game of “rounders”), and sometimes it’s worse (i.e. The Grudge, or any of the other poorly-adapted Japanese horror movies). In the case of Primitivo vs. Zinfandel, however, the jury is still out. Come cast your vote on Wednesday night!

To be fair, Zinfandel isn’t really an “adaptation” of Primitivo… it’s more like a different version of the same thing. Grown in southern Italy, Primitivo was thought for several decades to be Zinfandel’s genetic parent. Recent research, however, has proven that Zinfandel and Primitivo share the same DNA, and that both are actually genetic clones of the obscure Croatian grape Crljenak Kaštelanski. (To read a scholarly review of the definitive research, click here — or, for the short Wikipedia version, click here.) Although they might technically be the same grape, they’re stylistically different enough to warrant a side-by-side comparison.

Most of us have put back many a bottle of Zinfandel in our young lives, so we’ve got a pretty good sense of what that’s all about. Therefore, Primitivo will be the star of Wednesday night’s meeting. (We’ll provide two nice bottles of Zin for comparison purposes — these will both be supplied by the Winos.) Primitivo is still found mostly in Italy, although California produces a small amount as well, as does Australia. The wines taste a lot like cool-climate Zinfandel, but tend to be darker and earthier, with good spice and blackberry flavors.

While it’s becoming more popular every year, Primitivo won’t be the easiest varietal to find in supermarkets. Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods might have a bottle or two, but places like Ralphs or Vons probably will not. Your best bet is to check in with your friendly neighborhood wine merchant, who will hopefully have a bottle to fit your budget. Entry-level Primitivo can be found for under $10, and there are some great bottles out there in the $10 – $20 range.

(As always, you can opt to bring a monetary donation if you’d prefer not to buy a bottle. For this week’s meeting, please bring $12 if you’re going the cash route — the extra $2 will help us to offset the Zinfandel purchases.)

We’ll be meeting at Jason’s place in Brentwood. The RSVP system functions like this: if you want in, you click on this link and tell me so (don’t forget your full name, e-mail address, and a cute message conveying to me your intentions). If you’re denied entry due to a meeting exceeding capacity, don’t worry — you’ll be at the top of the list the next week.

Once you’ve gotten your confirmation e-mail, go out and find yourself a delicious Primitivo… or simply bring a $12 donation, if you prefer. See you on Wednesday night!