The Wine Idiot Reviews: Grifone Primitivo, 2014 ($3.99)
FULL DISCLOSURE: I've had this wine before and I knew going in that it was an excellent deal. I was at Trader Joe's and the helpful wine-aisle expert was helping me find some bottles under $5 for my upcoming wine-and-Girl-Scout-cookies post, and he grabbed this bottle and said, "this is one of my favorites," and I squealed, "ME TOO!!"
And I realized two things:
1) I had not yet reviewed the Grifone Primitivo for the blog.
2) One of the Democratic debates was on that night, and I love few things more than drinking wine while watching a debate.
Maybe it's because I also purchased black licorice while I was at Trader Joe's, but the first thing that came to mind when I sipped this wine was black licorice. This is just a big, feisty wine with lots of stuff going on, and I think black licorice was the closest thing in my flavor vocabulary to what I'm trying to describe. It's super peppery, and I also wrote, "Earthy?? Tobacco-y?????" Which means...I honestly don't know. Because it doesn't actually taste like dirt, or cigarettes. It reminds me of a Malbec, or even that La Finca Tempranillo (another great bargain red).
Something about it made me go grab my little bottle of vanilla extract. Obviously I'm not gonna sip vanilla extract because I DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM, but there are echoes of the scent of the extract in the taste of this wine. Something that reminds me of a smoking jacket--maybe a vanilla-scented pipe?
It's NOT fruity. At first it's super intense, but after maybe 6 sips you get used to it and it's just delicious. It reminds you, with every quaff, that you are drinking WINE, not fruit juice. It's a great cold-weather red, something to drink when you want to get warmed-up and cozy. I drank it by itself, and I think I probably prefer it that way; while I bet it could pair really well with like a red meat of some kind, it might overpower food.
I would feel very comfortable serving this wine to people (beer-drinking dudes especially) who proclaim that they like "big" red wines. It's got enough complexityand growl to probably do quite well in a blind taste-test against more expensive reds. And I in fact wrote down in my notes that it "pairs well with watching a debate and IT IS SO GOOD with black licorice." Which I obviously opened and started eating after the second glass.
What the bottle says: "Zinfandel in America... Primitivo in Italy... Mali Plavic in Croatia... For more than a millenium, the mystery grape of international viticulture travelled all over the world. Grifone is 100% Primitivo from old Zinfandel vines of Puglia region, a result of a long study made in conjunction with local growers, trying to rediscover the original concentration of fruit, spices, and flavours of this historical grape. Our Primitivo is soft and deep with flavorful vanilla notes and a long finish."
What the Wine Idiot says: Oh, so you fancy, huh Primitivo? And I wish I could crow about how right I was about the whole vanilla thing, but I'm pretty sure what happened is that I read this label in the store and since vanilla is the ONLY thing it brags about, I probably tucked that tidbit away in my brain somewhere. So grabbing my bottle of vanilla extract was not as much my own idea as I had thought. Bummer. Well. I'll take it.
Who's responsible for this? "Bottled by Roccadoro, Pontedera - Italy, Imported by Latitude Wines Inc., Danville, CA"
Do I need a corkscrew? Yessir.
What do smarter people say about it? OH MY GOD YOU GUYS DO YOU REMEMBER GIL LEMPERT-SCHWARZ?! No? Just me? He had some pretty amazing things to say about that Valréas "Cuvée Prestige" Côtes du Rhône Villages Red Table Wine I reviewed a while back. Well, he's ALSO GOT SOME AMAZING THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THE GRIFONE PRIMITIVO! You just have to read all of this, it reads like Shakespeare (yes I have annotated it with my commentary):
"In the glass: Grifone Primitivo wine is a deep blackish-red with a dense opaque core going out into a deep crimson rim definition with high viscosity. [IF I GO BLIND I WANT TO HIRE GIL TO DESCRIBE THE WORLD TO ME]
On the nose: Imagine a warm cherry pie fresh from the oven. That’s the first thing that comes to mind with this wine. [Is it, Gil? IS IT?!] It expands and shows deep crushed mixed black fruit with berries, plums and hints of licorice root and herbs, with underlying earthiness in the minerality. [LICORICE!!!!!!!!!!!]
On the palate: This is a rich, full-bodied wine. There are loads of concentrated blackberry and cherry fruit at first [disagree], then soft, supple but a nicely extracted black plum base with layers of dark chocolate, spice cake, blueberry pie and that licorice hint [hint?!]. The midpalate is solid and full of verve [remember The Verve Pipe?]. The tannins, while firm, are not bity or obtrusive. The delicious finish is lingering and has touches of sweet black fruit to the end.
Odds and ends: Yet another killer value wine from the south of Italy, down in the “heel” of the “boot” that forms the nation’s outline. This is purportedly the ancient, original home of what was transplanted into California and became the zinfandel grape variety. Big, brawny and full of fruit and alcohol are these ripe wines’ characteristics. At less than $4.50, Grifone Primitivo is probably one of the greatest bang-for-your-buck wines on the market and it is exclusive to Trader Joe’s. It’s hard to imagine again how they get these wines produced, imported, distributed and sold at these ridiculous prices. The packaging is great looking, designer and modern, almost like a Hermes product with its edgy orange label [he's not kidding]. I’d say buy it by the case and drink this up before the end of 2016. Try it with a peppercorn-crusted steak or the like; it can definitely handle that and a whole lot more in the food department [WELL FINE JUST MAKE ME LOOK LIKE AN IDIOT GIL]."
I would like to say--apparently he is reviewing the 2012 vintage. I highly doubt it's drastically different from the 2014? Maybe it is. But I swear to you, I do NOT taste all this "berry" flavor he does. Maybe my tongue is broken. But he said licorice, too!!!!!!! SO PROUD OF MYSELF RIGHT NOW. Also I wonder if there is a Gil Lempert-Schwarz fan club.
Should I bring it to a friend's house? I totally would. If you're not going to be embarrassed about bringing a TJ's-exclusive wine, this should be a crowd-pleaser for "big red" aficionados.