Leone de Castris Primitivo di Manduria Villa Santera 2016
Founded in 1665 by the Spanish Duke Oronzo, Earl of Lemos, in the Italian region of Puglia, Leone de Castris has been exporting wine since the beginning of the 19th century. The wines are the product of culture, innovation and a centuries-old tradition of dedication and passion. Leone de Castris’ entire range of wines has won awards and received prestigious recognition from all over the world. Their products are present not only in European markets, but also in the USA, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and more. Located close to the winery is Leone de Castris’ high-end restaurant and hotel, Villa Donna Lisa, where they host travelers, foreign delegations and Italians wishing to visit the winery. For centuries Leone de Castris has worked only in Puglia, producing only Apulian products. While some may view this as a limitation, for Leone de Castris, it is a specialty to be proud of. Their mission is to make the highest-quality products possible in the land where they were born and raised. Leone de Castris’ Five Roses Rosato was first produced in 1943. It was the first rosé bottled in Italy and the first to be sold in the U.S. For several generations, each de Castris had five children, hence the name, Five Roses. Along with their famous rosé, the winery produces a wide range of red and white DOC wines (Salice Salentino, Primitivo di Manduria) and interesting IGT Salento and Puglia wines.
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.