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Poggio Basso Primitivo 2011
Poggio Basso boasts an esteemed tradition of quality Chianti, Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva, each of which has received Best Buys and High Recommends from critics.
One of the most iconic Italian regions for wine, scenery, and history, Tuscany is the world’s most important outpost for the Sangiovese grape. Ranging in style from fruity and simple to complex and age-worthy, as well as in price from budget-friendly to ultra-premium, Sangiovese makes up a significant percentage of plantings here, with the white Trebbiano Toscano trailing far behind.
Within Tuscany, many esteemed wines have their own respective sub-zones, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The climate is Mediterranean and the topography consists mostly of picturesque rolling hills, perfect for Sangiovese as it ripens most efficiently on slopes with maximum exposure to sunlight.
Sangiovese at its simplest produces straightforward pizza-friendly wines with bright red fruit and not much more, but at its best it shows remarkable complexity. Top-quality Sangiovese-based wines can be expressive of a range of characteristics such as sour cherry, balsamic, dried herbs, leather, fresh earth, dried flowers, anise and tobacco. Brunello in particular is sensitive to vintage variation, performing best in years that are not too hot and not too cold. Chianti is associated with tangy and food-friendly dry wines at various price points. A more recent phenomenon as of the 1970s is the “Super Tuscan”—a wine made from international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, with or without Sangiovese. These are common in Tuscany’s coastal regions like Bolgheri, Val di Cornia, the island of Elba and more inland, in Carmignano.
Responsible for inky, brambly, and ripe-fruited wines, Primitivo bears more than a passing resemblance to Zinfandel—and there’s a very good reason for this. Depending on whom you ask, the two varieties are either one and the same, or extremely similar clones of a third variety—the Croatian Tribidrag. Primitivo was brought to Italy from Croatia in the late 1800s and became an important variety in the hot, dry region of Puglia in the country’s south. Primitivo is sometimes labeled as Zinfandel for export.
In the Glass
The flavors of Primitivo are, naturally, very similar to those of Zinfandel, but often it is somewhat earthier, leaner, and more structured, with lower alcohol. 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, or anything barbecued. Alcohol levels tend to be lower than those of Zinfandel, which means it can pair with slightly spicy cuisine like Indian curries, meatballs with Moroccan seasonings, or beef fajitas.
The link between Primitivo and Zinfandel is quite a recent discovery. The two were believed to be siblings until 2001, when grape geneticists at UC Davis identified them as identical. While European producers are allowed to use the two names interchangeably, the US does not yet permit this.