The Cavaliere d’Oro Primitivo is an Italian red that tastes like an Italian red and not a California wannabe
Primitivo is an Italian red grape, usually identified as zinfandel even though they’re not exactly the same thing. But that hasn’t stopped countless Italian producers from hopping on the California zinfandel bandwagon, producing wines that don’t taste much Italian but do please a certain Baby Boomer palate. So where does the Cavaliere d’Oro Primitivo fit into this?
It tastes like primitivo.
Which, honestly, was the last thing I was counting on when I picked up the Cavaliere d’Oro Primitivo ($12, purchased, 13.5%). I bought the wine because I buy wine, even though I’m not sure I’m going to like it. Such are the demands of the blog.
But the Cavaliere d’Oro Primitivo was all it should be, and probably even a little more. It’s easily one of the best primitivos I’ve tasted, in that it didn’t taste like badly-made zinfandel. It was fruity (dark berries, plum), but there was much more – a touch of cocoa, some nicely done oak, tannins that offered just enough structure, and all in a well-rounded whole. Highly recommended.
Imported by TWE Imports
Pricing note: All prices are suggested retail or actual purchase price before the October 2019 tariffs unless noted
One of the questions we got during our Savor Dallas wine event last week was about price: Is there really all that much good $10 wine?
Several people, knowing the Wine Curmudgeon ?s reason for being, chuckled. I was actually quite restrained, since I was in public and did not not want to embarrass myself or the other people on the panel. Throwing things and jumping up and down tends to do that.
In fact, I spoke barely at all, and when I did it was to recommend the La Fiera ($8, purchased, 13%), an Italian red that is everything a cheap wine should be ? varietally correct and indicative of its place, all the while treating the consumer with respect.
Primitivo may or may not be zinfandel; I ?ve tasted some that had nothing in common, and some, like this, that show that the grapes are related. Look for some black pepper on the nose and more dark red fruit than I expected (zinfandel characteristics). This is not a perfect wine ? the vanilla on the back was annoying and the wine would have benefitted from less oak or chips or whatever. But it cost $8 ? how much more could I want?
Drink this with takeout pizza, any Italian-American dinner, or even hamburgers on the grill. I just hope the people at the panel take my advice.
Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.
? Shoofly The Freckle 2008 ($14, sample): This Australian white Rhone blend is starting to show its age, but does have pleasant honey floral aroma, sweet apple fruit at the back, and a peach pit finish.
? Stag's Leap Artemis 2003 ($40, sample): This is classic and elegant Napa cabernet sauvignon at a time when consumers expect trendy and pushy Napa cabernet. That those consumers don't appreciate it is their loss.
? Bella Sera Pinot Grigio 2009 ($8, sample): Simple, decent, and surprisingly pleasant Italian white wine. This won't offend anyone, which is saying a lot for pinot grigio at this price.
The Wine Curmudgeon is never quite sure what to make of the Layer Cake wines. A year-old review of the shiraz was one of the most popular posts on the blog in 2010, and it's still getting comments. Is it the quality of the wine that elicits so much enthusiasm, or the quality of the label, what with it featuring a chocolate cake?
For the primitivio ($12, sample) the answer is the quality of the wine. It's made in Italy, but done in a decidedly New World Style — lots of oak and lots of dark black fruit, with vanilla thrown in for good measure. But it also offers plenty of traditional zinfandel-style spice and brambliness, which helped balance the wine — and the alcohol is only 13 1/2 percent. Another point in its favor: I tasted the wine about a year ago, and it wasn't as interesting as this. Another year of bottle aging seems to have helped.
Why the zinfandel reference? Because primitivo is apparently the same grape, though there is still some debate about the subject. In this, too many Italian primitivos I've tasted, including one the other night to compare to the Layer Cake, go whole hog for the New World zinfandel style without understanding what's involved. It's not a pretty sight.
Yet another wine that the Wine Curmdugeon judged before tasting — and was, as usual, completely wrong about.
Though I had my reasons. Really. The PR materials that came with the Piluna ($13, sample) were, to be kind, a bit overwrought. They included a line that said, "Here spreads the sun which floods the land with light. …" I've been writing professionally for too long to take that well. Plus, I'm wary of Italian primitivo, which was one of the varietals of the moment before the wine business crashed in 2008. I wonder how much primitivo is sitting in distributor warehouses, gathering dust, never to be heard from again.
Though, of course, neither of those had anything to do with what the wine tasted like. Maybe that should be my New Year's wine resolution: Drink the wine before you write about it, stupid. So, needless to say, the Piluna was a pleasant surprise. Though it had more oak than it needed, there was lots of very impressive black fruit, and the necessary amount of acid to balance it. I drank it with roast chicken, and it paired well. It would also work with beefy winter braises and stews.
One other thought: The wine comes from Puglia, in the Italian boot heel. This should have been a clue the wine was worthwhile; the blog's favorite wine, Tormaresca Neprica, comes from Puglia (as does its sister chardonnay). Like I said, stupid.