Castello Monaci Artas Primitivo 2016
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Here's a contemporary and stylized wine to pair with a thick lamb or goat stew. The hearty Castello Monaci 2016 Primitivo Artas is bold and beautiful, with dense tones of blackberry, spice, smoke and sweet chewing tobacco, stuffed tightly into a full-bodied frame. The alcohol is measured at a robust 16.5%, and the wine is as thickly layered as it needs to be. Still, you'll want to serve this mighty red with a hearty winter dish, otherwise you risk masking any nuanced food flavors with the formidable power packed into this bottle.
Castello Monaci stands out in the heart of the Salice Salentino DOC, which is located in Puglia, a region along the Adriatic in the “heel of the boot” of farthest southeast Italy. The production of Castello Monaci’s estate wines is carefully followed from the vineyards to the winery and into the bottle. The estate is dedicated to their sustainable philosophy and is one of a small number of Italian estates to have their sustainability certified by DNV-GL, a globally recognized firm. Even Castello Monaci’s packaging is eco-friendly, carrying the Environmental Management System Certificate logo. Castello Monaci is a benchmark producer crafting wines from Southern Italy’s indigenous grapes: Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera. The region of Puglia is drenched in the most intense sunlight in all of Italy tempered only by the Adriatic and Ionian seas which provide con¬stant, cooling maritime winds. This unique climate helps produce exquisitely balanced fruit. The Castello Monaci estate is housed in a 16th century castle with medieval foundations once run by Basilian monks who maintained a long wine¬making tradition. Lina Memmo, whose family has owned the estate since the 19th century, and husband Vitantonio Seracca Guerrieri, currently own the property. Each vineyard parcel is cultivated, harvested—always at night to unsure the best quality of grapes—and vinified separately in small tanks. The area dedicated to aging wines is a spectacular barrel cellar dug out of the hard rock that houses 1,000 barriques and 18 French oak barrels. Castello Monaci’s cellars are surrounded by over 350 acres of vineyards, including old vine Negroamaro and Primitivo. In addition, they have expanded their estate with holdings near Brindisi planted with white varietals. Vitantonio Seracca Guerrieri, president of the estate, who for years has experimented with selections to enhance the native vines of Salento, supervises the work in the vineyards personally.
Well-suited to the production of concentrated, fruity and spicy red varieties, Puglia is one of Italy’s warmest, most southerly regions. Its entire eastern side is one long coastline bordering the Adriatic Sea. About half way down, the region becomes the Salento Peninsula. This peninsula, bordered by water on three sides, receives moist, nighttime, sea breezes that bring a welcome cooling effect to the region, where little rain creates a challenging environment for its vines. In fact, the region is named for the Italian expression, “a pluvia,” meaning “lack of rain.”
Puglia’s Mediterranean climate and iron-rich, calcareous soils support the indigenous Primitivo, Negroamaro and Nero di Troia. Primitivo produces an inky, spicy, brambly and ripe red wine whose best expression comes from Manduria. Nero di Troia produces tannic, rustic reds from Castel del Monte DOC while Negroamaro, typically blended with Malvasia nera, plays a large part in may blends made throughout the peninsula.
Puglia produces a small amount of white wines as well, predominantly made of the fruity, Trebbiano Toscano, or light, Bombino bianco grapes.
Responsible for inky, brambly, and ripe fruit driven wines, Primitivo bears more than a passing resemblance to Zinfandel—and there’s a very good reason for this. The two varieties are actually one and the same and have a Croatian origin. Primitivo was brought to Italy from Croatia in the late 1800s and became an important variety in the hot, dry, southern region of Puglia. Here it was named from the Latin word, primativus, meaning "first to ripen."
In the Glass
The flavors of Primitivo are, naturally, very similar to those of Zinfandel, but often it is somewhat leaner, and more structured and earthy. Typical characteristics include ripe berry fruit, plum, black pepper, fresh earth and sweet baking spice.
Primitivo pairs best with full-flavored, hearty meat dishes like roasted lamb, beef brisket, hamburgers, meatballs with Moroccan seasonings, beef fajitas or anything barbecued.
The link between Primitivo and Zinfandel is quite a recent discovery. While there was some speculation that they were related, it wasn't until 1994 when grape geneticists at UC Davis identified them as identical. The grape goes by the name of Tribidrag in Croatia and is a parent of the modern Croatian variety, Plavac Mali.