Primitivo, the Fino Way | Wine Spectator

Primitivo, the Fino Way | Wine Spectator

It’s an odd tribute to a winemaker.

In the bathroom of PerBacco—a gastronomic wine osteria in Bari, Italy—two matching sinks are fashioned from the empty wood cases of a Puglia wine legend.

“Gianfranco Fino showed the world the potential of what a wine from Puglia could be,” enthuses owner Beppe Schino.

He’s not alone in his admiration. Fino’s 14-year rise in the heel of the Italian boot has been meteoric. He founded his winery with a vision for meticulously producing limited-quantity, high-end Primitivo—the southern Italian equivalent of Zinfandel—in the Manduria region.

His flagship Primitivo, called “Es” (the original German term for Freud’s concept of the “id”), has consistently earned outstanding scores in Wine Spectator blind tastings. (The 2015, at $90, scored 90 points.) With its linear acidity, complexity and spice, it defies the stereotypical image of massive, inky Primitivo di Manduria—still sometimes shipped north as bulk wine or concentrate to boost other wines.

“I have always sought finesse and elegance, not a Primitivo that’s a quasi-Amarone,” says Fino. “As the French say, it’s balance that makes the difference.”

When I drove up to Fino’s winery at the edge of the town of Sava in early September, I thought I’d mistaken the address. It looked like it could house any local producer selling wine in jugs, not a celebrated wine star.

Painted wood sliding doors open directly off the street into…

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