As with many European grape varietals, there is some debate regarding the precise origins of the Primitivo grape. Most people now agree that it probably came from Croatia, where it is still used widely in the production of red wine, and it known as Tribidrag. However, today it is a grape most commonly associated with the powerful red wines of Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, where the intense sunshine and brisk Mediterranean breezes produce grapes of remarkable character and balance. Primitivo is a dark grape, known for producing intense, inky, highly tannic wines, most notably the naturally sweet Dolce Naturale and the heavy and complex Primitivo di Manduria wines. Primitivo tends to be naturally very high in both tannin and alcohol, making it ideal for both barrel and cellar ageing, which brings out its more rounded and interesting features.
Primitivo is not the easiest grape to grow or manage, and it has had something of a difficult century. Indeed, by the 1990s, there was little interest in Puglian wines in general, and winemakers were neglecting their Primitivo vineyards and looking to other, more commercially viable varietals. However, the last decade has seen this grape come well and truly back into fashion, with new techniques and a heightened interest in native Italian grape varietals bringing Primitivo back into the spotlight. It is now widely loved for its intensity and ability to be paired with strongly flavored foods.