Drink Magazine

Grape Spotlight: Salento IGT Torcicoda Primitivo

By Winecompass
"When I came to America in August 1958, I saw vineyards around Chateau Souverain and I was interested to know which grapes were grown there. They told me Cabernet Franc from France and Zinfandel, but no-one knows where those grapes came from.  .... These Zinfandel grapes reminded me of the Plavic Mali grapes from my homeland in Croatia. ... I contacted Dr. Carole Meredith to tell her that I believed Zinfandel, Italian Primitivo, and Croatian Plavic Mali were the same grape. "  Miljenko "Mike" Grgich addressing the First International Conference on the Tribidrag Variety
Grape Spotlight: Salento Torcicoda PrimitivoGrgich's instincts were close. American Zinfandel, Italian Primitivo, and Croatian Crljenak Kastelanski aka Tribidrag (a parent of Plavic Mali) are genetically identical. See Grape Spotlight: Croatian Tribidrag (Crljenak Kaštelanski, Pribidrag, Kratošija) aka Zinfandel for more more detailed information. 

This variety was introduced in Apulia at the end of the 1700s with the name “Primativo” by a priest named Francesco Indellicati. He selected this grape variety because it was the earliest to ripen. It then spread throughout southern Apulia thanks to the dedication and hard work of the Benedictine monks. 

Primitivo is a dark-skinned, early ripening grape known for producing inky, tannic wines. The grape arrived in Puglia obviously from coastal Croatia and thrives in the Salento IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) -- a regulation that covers the Salento, the limestone-based peninsula that divides the Adriatic Sea from the Ionian Sea and forms Italy's heel.  The Salento peninsula enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate with mild winters and long, hot, dry summers favored by its geographical location and direct contact with the Adriatic Sea. 

According to wine-searcher.com, "the Salento encompasses Puglia's three southernmost provinces, Taranto (also covered by the Tarantino IGT title), Brindisi and Lecce. Thus, the viticultural area covered by the Salento IGT title stretches 180 kilometers (100 miles) north to south. It runs from the white beaches of Leuca, past the port town of Taranto, past the Gravina di Laterza canyon, and right up to the border with Basilicata.

Grape Spotlight: Salento Torcicoda PrimitivoSalento IGT Rosso, Rosato, and Bianco blends may contain any proportion of any varieties permitted within the growing zone. Varietal wines must contain at least 85 percent of the variety on the label. Dual-variety wines must contain 50-85 percent of the first variety and 15-50 percent of the second. The same rules apply to passito rosso or bianco, late-harvest wines, and spumante bianco and rosato".

The regulations allow 50 grape varieties from international varieties to those associated with northern and central Italy such as Sangiovese and Montepulciano. In addition, Salento is also known for wines from full-blooded Puglian grapes such as Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Verdeca.

Tormaresca is a producer that owns an estate in Maime, Upper Salento in the province of Brindisi. This Masseria Maìme estate extends along the Adriatic coast and covers an area of about 500 hectares, 350 of which are planted with vines and 85 with olive groves. The most prevalent grape varieties grown are a mixture of indigenous and international:  Negroamaro, Primitivo, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. And one of these releases is available through Total Wine -- the Torcicoda Primitivo Salento IGT 2016 ($23).

The winery describes this Primitivo as having "strong ties to the rustic and rural countryside where it is produced. It was also a symbol of fertility and wealth for the local families, and in a not-too-distant past and it was even given as part of young brides’ dowries when they married. “Torcicoda” on one hand indicates an instrument that farmers once used to take care of their horses while on the other hand, it represents the coiling, luxuriant nature of the shoots and leaves of its vines, also called the vine “of three harvests” due to its abundant growth. 

This wine is intense and luscious, a red wine for these June nights which are dipping into the 50s.  Spices integrate with chocolate, tobacco, and dark fruit from start to finish. Expect texture and approachable tannins followed by rising acidity the keeps the finish active. Excellent.

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