After the delicious Valpolicella Ripasso I found in Morrison’s a few months ago, I’ve been having a bit of Italian streak recently. In the past fortnight, I’ve made vegan fresh pasta and pizza dough from scratch, and experimented with two unfamiliar red wine grapes: Nebbiolo and Primitivo.
Picked up from Tesco for £8.00, Casa Roscoli Organic Primitivo showed the classic heady aromas – cherry, plum, blackberry – alongside weighted tannins, more red fruit and cloves on the palate.
It probably won’t win any awards, but it was okay- there was a touch of bitterness to it that suggests it might have needed a little more time, perhaps a longer airing period after opening. For a very budget-friendly wine that is both organic and suitable for vegans, however, you can’t really knock it.
Slightly heavy for my taste, but that simply means it’s true to its character. Primitivo wines are known for being full-bodied with flavours of red fruit and sweet spice. The slightly older varieties exhibit deep savoury flavours of tobacco, cocoa and woodsmoke, which are not unpleasant. My partner, who prefers big red wines anyway, really enjoyed this one.
Facts About Primitivo
Italy is great for red wines that are full-bodied, with complex flavours and balanced tannins. Puglia, a region of Southern Italy is known the world over for growing Primitivo grapes, which make big, bold red wines with high alcohol, heady fruit aromas, and heavy tannins
It’s rumoured this variety was brought to Italy from Croatia or Greece, but nobody knows for sure – and it has been in Italy for centuries now, and that’s where most people connect it to. The grapes ripen early, and that’s where the name comes from: a blend of Latin (primativus) and Old Italian (primaticcio), both of which mean something along the lines of “first to ripen” or “early ripening”.
An interesting fact is that the Primitivo grape is genetically identical to the Zinfandel grape- the alleged national grape of the United States. Hence why the variety listed on the Tesco website for this wine is, in fact, Zinfandel. Both are ideal for pairing with a variety of foods, and show far better.
Vegan Food For Italian Red Wines
A good vegan dish for Primitivo would be pasta, or pizza. A tantalising combination of floury dough, tomatoes, strong herbs, cheese and meat alternatives, it’s a hefty meal that can stand up to a quite substantial wine. Plus, you’re matching Italian wine with Italian food, which will always be a winner.
Whilst vegan cheese tends to be milder in flavour, this weeknight dinner and wine match was still a success story in my book. Next time, I’ll probably use vegan chorizo or sausage, as a spiced or meaty element will stand up well to the tannins.
Hefty red wines are probably the hardest to pair with a plant-based dish, because they show best when combined with hearty meals, and fat – hence why steak, roast dinners, and cheeses are oft-quoted as the ‘it’ pairings for many red wines. It’s not impossible however- you just need to pick the right vegan foods, prepared in the right way.
In order to match Primitivo with vegetables, they need to be:
Here’s my list of plant-based foods to pair with full-bodied red wines:
- Sun-dried Tomatoes
- Roasted peppers
- Roasted beetroot
- Caramelised onions
- Roasted garlic
- Black beans
- Smoked cheese (so perhaps smoked tofu or cheese substitute would also work? Personally I haven’t tried this… yet)
- Roasted walnuts
- Roasted chestnuts