Tonight's bottle of wine magically turned into two, when, after tasting the 2005 Caleo Primitivo Salento, my wife Kris and I decided we just had to do a side-by-side comparison with a California Zinfandel. Since we purchased the Caleo Primitivo for $8, we found an $8 Zinfandel in our collection - the 2005 Ravenswood Vintner's Blend Zin. Both wines were purchased at Total Wine in McLean, VA.
"Why would you want to compare an Italian Primitivo with a Californian Zinfandel?", you might ask. Well, if you're asking, it's because you sagely decided to skip the long introductory posts on this blog, and thus missed my rant on Zinfandel / Primitivo / Crljenak Kasteljanski. The point of the rant was that Zinfandel and Primitivo have now been proven to be the same grape. So it only made sense to try them side-by-side and note any differences or similarities.
As it turned out, there are a LOT more similarities than differences. Both had a very similar nose of raspberries and spice: the Zinfandel displayed more pepper while the Italian was more an unidentifiable melange of spices (I'm new at this whole describing-what-you're-smelling thing, so it's probably just me not having a sufficient "mental scent library" to nail down the spices in the Primitivo). Both the nose and taste of the Ravenswood were more fruit forward and brighter. The Primitivo was a smoother, more balanced, more complex, and a bit more "brooding" than the happy Californian. As the glass opened up, the Primitivo took on more complexity, while the Zin stayed relatively the same.
Bottom line: If you're a Zinfandel fan, it's well worth your time to explore some Italian Primitivos. Given that both the Zin and Primitivo were the same price ($8), I'd buy this Primitivo again hands-down over this Zin - although these wines are so similar that we had a somewhat hard time telling them apart when tasting "blind", there's just a lot more to like in the Primitivo.