Over the last week I have drunk more bottles of Primitivo from Puglia than I have in my entire lifetime. It has made me appreciate what a fantastic variety Primitivo is. However, it also showed me that so much Primitivo is out of step with reality.
Too many producers in Puglia think the higher the price, the greater the level of toast they need on their new barriques. Just think of how much money they could save (and how much better the wines will be) if they used old oak or even cement for the maturation of their wines.
I admit, I have been seduced by the dark side. Imported a Primitivo di Manduria in Puglia at 15.5% that was seductive for the first glass. The second glass was not so enjoyable and by the third glass it had become cloying to the point of being undrinkable. The customers out there that loved over oaked Barossa Shiraz fell in love with this wine. In some ways, I was ashamed and made a mental note to myself to never import wine that I would not drink,
Except for the Primitivo di Manduria we imported once, all the other Primitivo we have imported has been either matured in old oak (Fatalone) or seen no or very little oak at all (Lucarrelli) and this is for me the future of Primitivo. In Italy, most of the Primitivo I have tried and been offered to import is the turbo charged examples that are so out of whack with what Primitivo is all about. Hopefully in the next few years this changes and we see some purer expressions of Primitivo.
For this to happen, the mind set of these producers needs to change. They need to know that oak derived flavour does not tell us anything about the wine variety they are growing and the region in which they are growing these grapes. In some ways, they need to go back to the way the parents and grandparents made wine, without the use of excessive oak. After trying so much Primitvo this week, I know they have the resources to be able to make some of the best wine in Southern Italy.