What Wines Similar to Primitivo? Avoid Making Key Mistakes

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

Reader Disclosure Disclosure: We may earn commissions for purchases made through links on our site. Learn more on our about us page.

Primitivo has a fantastical element to the wine; this grape has traveled the span of Greco-Roman recorded time. 

According to Dr. Antonio Carpenè, Primitivo di Turi “… has the beautiful color of aged wine, a dry tonic flavor, a most pleasant, harmonious scent, generous as a whole.”

The history of this vintage stretches into ancient history. In Turi and other regions in southern Italy, viticulture is a millenary tradition. Generations of Italians have passed on the tradition of making Primitivo and even have museum displays telling of their winemaking history.  

A wine bottle, glass and cork near some fruits and vegetables on a table - What Wines Similar to Primitivo?

What is Primitivo Similar to?

Primitivo, or ‘early one,’ has very similar genetic makeup to Zinfandel, if not identical. Enjoy the deep fruity labels from California or a brand made from southern Italy with a naturally sweet flavor and higher alcohol content and tannins. 

The two vintages will be more than enough for your entertainment and personal needs. 

Here are a few similar labels that are also made in that region of southern Italy as Primitivo:


  • Salice Salentino
  • Negroamaro
  • Bombino Nero


What grape is similar to Primitivo?

Sharing the same parent/clone parent, Zinfandel and Primitivo are nearly the same. Their Croatian parent Crljenak-Kaštelanski, or Pribidrag, or Kratosija, and Tribidrag, is also a dark purple grape. 

Many blind taste tests will result in mixing the United States Zinfandel and Italian Primitivo unless an experienced sommelier does the tasting. 

Eastern European Winemakers continue to produce wines, especially in Croatia. 

Other relative grapes include:


  • Lasin – Dalmatian Primorska Hrvatska, Croatia
  • Dobričić – Coastal regions of Croatia
  • Plavina – Primorska Hrvatska, Croatia


Out of the similar wines, which one is the best substitute?

Zinfandel is the easiest choice. The genetic makeup of Primitivo and Zinfandel are almost identical, sharing similar lineage from Croatia. 

If you are starting out trying red wines, follow this famous Italian vintage tasting selection:


  • Barbera – A Bone-Dry red with High ABV and acidity levels, medium body, and tannins. 
  • Dolcetto – Dry red with high ABV and medium acidity, body, and tannin levels.
  • Sangiovese – A Bone-Dry red with medium acidity, body, and tannin content.


What kind of wine is Primitivo?

Most experts from Puglia will tell you that Primitivo is a Mirr test or ‘hard wine.’ This wine is known to have upwards of 18% alcohol by volume, which is not for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, the vintage is intensely flavorful and mouth-puckering tannins. 

Primitivo is a red wine that is full-bodied vintage is an excellent pairing for:


  • Puglian spit-roasted lamb
  • Beetroot curry (Aka the-dala)


Are Zinfandel and Primitivo the same?

They are like almost identical brothers, cousins if you will. The flavors are similar to each other.

Research done at the University of California at Davis in the late 20th century, known as Zinquest, proved the pair to be genetically identical twins. The main difference between these two vintages is the geographical location the vine is grown. 

In addition, the natural notes of the environment in the wines are produced to give each label a unique flavor. 

Final thoughts on Wines similar to Primitivo

Primitivo and Zin grapes are identical clones genetically. The difference is within the geographical environment the wine is grown in. 

The parent grape is from Croatia, Crljenak-Kaštelanski, and both are dark-skinned grapes. Primitivo is a hard wine and can have alcohol levels nearing 18% ABV.