Puglia’s Mediterranean climate, with its generally hot weather, constant sunshine and sea breezes, has created the ideal environment for viticulture. In fact, Puglia is among Italy’s largest wine-growing regions.
For a long time, wine produced in Puglia was mostly made for blending; however, things have started to change in recent years, with a movement toward quality rather than quantity and the rise of Primitivo di Manduria DOC, a dry red wine made from the Primitivo grape variety, which is common in the southern portion of the region (fun fact: this same grape variety is also common in California, where it is known as Zinfandel).
The production of Primitivo di Manduria is centered around the town of Manduria, and stretches eastwards from Taranto, along the Gulf of Taranto for about 25 miles (40km), up to the village of Francavilla Fontana. The only viticultural area in Italy to specialize in this variety, it consists of hot and dry plains gently sloping down to the sea, where both ancient vineyards and olive groves abound.
The grape is called ‘Primitivo’ because it ripens early. The dark-skinned grapes produce deep, complex wines of intense flavor and color, with a bit of bitterness. Primitivo wines need a few years in the barrel or bottle before being ready for consumption.
Primitivo di Manduria DOC is made from 100% Primitivo grapes (unlike other Primitivo wines, which are blends). This wine is also characterized by a high alcohol by volume percentage - around 14%.
In the local Puglian dialect, Primitivo is aptly known as mirr test, 'hard wine'.
In addition to the standard dry Primitivo, there is also a sweet version called Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale, Puglia's first DOCG, the highest classification for Italian wines.