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UNCORKED: check out relative values to add variety to choice of drinks.

WITH so many grape varieties planted throughout the world, many introduced from other countries, it's sometimes difficult to know which are related or which are the same under another name and, therefore, what flavours to expect.

For example, it is an accepted fact that Syrah in the Rhone Valley is the same as Shiraz in Australia but many more obscure and less well known relationships do occur. Here's one that is especially pertinent at the moment as both variants are on the up in their respective countries.

In California there is the Zinfandel, generally thought of as being the one unique grape of California amongst all the imported varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Almost half the world away in southern Italy there is the Primitivo which, along with other local varieties such as Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera, is the mainstay of red wines in the region.

Opinions differ as to the relationship of these two gapes.

At the very least they are first cousins but some would say that they are exactly the same.

The latter view seems to hold sway in Italy where a ruling has recently been made allowing wines made from Primitivo to be labelled as Zinfandel.

What is certainly true is that you can expect excellent, full-bodied, fruity wines with overtones of blackberry, leather and spice from both these varieties, characteristics that have enhanced their popularity of late.

After a spell when Zinfandel was unfashionable in California, signs of a little boredom with finely-crafted, super-smooth Merlots and Cabernets have brought the robust flavours of Zinfandel back to the fore.

In southern Italy changes have been more dramatic with the whole region going through a revolution from producing vast quantities of very cheap, very average wine to lower-yield, rich, appealing and particularly good-value reds.

Puglia, the heel of Italy, has led the way, not least with some brilliant Primitivo-based wines.

So if you like full-bodied reds and this has led to one or other of the Zinfandels of California and the Primitivos of southern Italy, you know there is a similar relation to try.

Grape Relatives; Primitivo & Zinfandel -

I Monili Primitivo del Tarantino 1997- from Manduria in Puglia, a good, purple-fruited red with plenty of body and complexity for a very reasonable price (pounds 4.99)

Archidamo Primitivo di Manduria 1997 - from the same producer (Pervini) as the I Monili, a more serious, weightier number but not overblown and with lovely, rich fruit on the palate (pounds 6.99)

Beringer Zinfandel 1996 California - Beringer is one of the most consistent producers of quality wines in California. This Zinfandel has bags of sweet berry fruit and a touch of spice (pounds 6.99).
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Author:Cowin, Tim
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 8, 1999
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