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In Seafood-Rich Puglia, Primitivo Wines Are A Meaty Red Option

Capocollo of Martina Franca, salame and mortadella with Primitivo rosato in Salentino, Puglia

Susan H. Gordon

At the peninsular end of southern Italy’s Puglia region, bounded by the Adriatic and Ionian seas at the nation’s easternmost edge and called Salentino, Salento or Messapia, lies Manduria, one of the world’s oldest vineyards and today ruled over by the country’s famous Primitivo wine grape, known in the United States as Zinfandel.

Vine-rich Salentino, founded in the eighth century B.C.E., colonized by ancient Greeks in search of more fertile lands. destroyed by the Romans after the Second Punic War, now houses Primitivo di Manduria DOC, Italy’s only appellation devoted entirely to potent, plummy Primitivo. In this land of harsh sunlight, reflecting as fiercely from the blue-green-violet seas and the land’s chalky limestone outcroppings as from the local cities’ brilliant-white-painted buildings and UNESCO-protected trulli tops, 20,000 Salentino citizens still speak Griko, a locally shaped Greek dialect. In Manduria’s vineyards, iron-rich red clay soils blanket porous, freshness-granting limestone rock and hold what little rain falls there. They are considered heat-loving Primitivo’s ideal, allowing the grape to express itself as richly scented wine with a bitter edge that verges on the medicinal tinge of Italy’s famous amari. Still broadly overlooked, Manduria’s Primitivo is one of the wine…

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