As those familiar with our tastes may surmise, we at Rosenthal were not explicitly seeking out high-alcohol wine from the deep south of Italy in the recent past; nonetheless, the Attanasio family’s bold, wild Primitivo di Manduria grabbed us by the collar and all but forced us to reckon with it. Intense ripeness as a true expression of terroir is vastly different from intense ripeness as an end goal of winegrowing and winemaking, and in wines such as Attanasio’s it is simply a fact of nature—and just one part of a riveting whole.
The grandson of the winery’s founder Giuseppe (whose name still graces the labels), Alessandro Attanasio farms seven hectares of primarily bush-trained Primitivo in the province of Taranto, hard on the northern coast of the Ionian Sea in southern Puglia. He works these stingy old vines—which give him 40 hectoliters per hectare in a bountiful vintage, and 20 in a tough one—according to old agrarian practices: following the phases of the moon; employing only copper and sulfur to treat against disease; fertilizing with manure and humus; and these being bush vines, conducting all vineyard work manually and harvesting by hand. This zone’s reddish soils of silty clay over friable tufo limestone yield wines of intensely rich fruit shot through with a cleansing minerality and framed by a savory salinity that speaks of the nearby Ionian, and Alessandro harnesses these elements into Primitivo that demonstrates with authority that equilibrium can exist even in wines of extremes.