Truth be told, Italian wines confuse me the way French wines confuse most. Barolo, Barbararesco, Montepulciano, Ripasso – lots of Os that always left me feeling like “Oh No, I don’t get it!”

It was with some trepidation, then, that I opened a bottle of Primitivo, not really knowing what to expect. It was one of those “aha” moments that will always be with me, as the wine blew me away.

It was a bottle of “1895” LaStoria Primitivo di Manduria from Natale Verga, a 2019 vintage. The wine was a beautiful ruby color in the glass, with ripe cherry, plum and even some cinnamon notes on the nose. When I took the first sip, it jumped out at me with a super-smooth, soft, fruit-forward mouthful of lusciously ripe berry. It was medium-bodied and balanced, tickling my taste buds with a nice front, middle, and finish. Deliziosa!

I looked up Manduria and learned that it is a sun-drenched spot in the heel of Italy’s boot where the primitivo grape reigns, growing on ancient vines. In the US we know this grape as zinfandel – wines that explode with those intense dark berry notes. When it’s dark earlier and earlier these days, retreating to a deep red is fabuloso.

This won’t be my ultimo primitivo, that’s for sure.

Buon Appetito!