Honestly, I bought this wine because it was a new convenient Primitivo di Manduria I hadn’t known before. This DOC is for me one of the best in Southern Italy. The very name ‘Manduria’ sounds so exotic, almost like Manchuria. The most probable etymology of the former name is however mand-Uria, i.e., before Uria, the political center of Messapians – ancient inhabitants of the region (before Romans). Hence, there are no connections to China.
Concerning the variety – Primitivo, Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson write that it’s identical to the Californian Zinfandel. Primitivo arrived to the ‘heel’ of the Italian Peninsula from what is now Croatia, where it’s known as Crljenak, Pribridrag, Kaštelanac, or Starinski plavac. Altogether, quite an interesting DOC!
Cantolio’s ‘Quattordici’ is a varietal (mono-cépage), that means, it’s done exclusively out of Primitivo grapes. The result is a silky but round wine, with fine tannins and aroma of wild berries and… This is the point of the post, which is more about ‘philosophy’ of wine drinking than the wine itself. I don’t remember how was the wine. Still, I’m sure it was a simple and well-done product, perfectly balanced: not too acidic, not too ‘bitter’, not to berry-ish, not too alcoholic, not too sweetish, and not too heavy. Doesn’t sound like a very professional description, does it?
That evening I had a friend of mine visiting me. No, I didn’t cook any filet mignon or deer goulash. We had some Austrian venison sausage and Ibores cheese. The wine was finished without us noticing it. We were just talking, laughing and drinking. In retrospect, I have to think about the ancient Greek tradition of symposium, drinking together in a cheerful atmosphere, discussing everything from philosophical problem to the latest rumors. In such a situation, wine is not a drink to be described, analyzed or criticized; it makes part of a feast, where not the wine itself but its stimulating effect is celebrated.
Stuart Piggot wrote in one of his books that he somehow differentiates between great wines to be contemplated and those he enjoys in the evening with his wife. The former are usually too complex to have more than a glass. Even though, just a glass is enough to meditate on wine’s color, smell, taste… in sum, its beauty. By contrast, the latter type of wine is not about perfection and too much complexity, but the bottle gets empty before you’ve even noticed. It’s a decent companion, which makes your evening nice without concentrating your attention too much on itself. What a selfless wine!
The ‘Quattordici’ belongs to the second category, the selfless one, perfectly suitable for any kind of ‘symposium’ 🙂
PS. The wine is bottled by the producer: Cantolio Vini from Apulia, but they do that for a renowned wine trader from Munich: Saffer. That’s why I guess that outside of Germany you shouldn’t expect exactly the same label.