Elegance in a wine is wonderful: Think red or white Burgundy, and the silky tannins delivered by top-notch Californian and Italian reds. But sometimes, I’m just as happy with the direct flavors and aromas delivered by less-sophisticated reds, especially when the food is hearty and I don’t want to get too intellectual about what I’m drinking.
Recently, a red from Italy—a Primitivo del Salento—fit that bill. This wine hails from the boot heel of Italy in the province of Apulia. Primitivo is known in California as Zinfandel (the grapes are actually two different clones of a Croatian grape), but here the grape presents a bit more rawness and rusticity. This wine had a beefy aroma and was ripe yet fresh-tasting with plum, dried berry, smoke and plenty of acidity to back it up. It was the perfect match for a dish of whole-wheat pasta with a pesto sauce I had made from homegrown oregano and basil. I rated it 87 points, non-blind, and it cost just $11 a bottle. Not elegant, but very satisfying nonetheless.