Layer Cake Primitivo (2009)

layer-cake-primitivoI was all ready to rip this wine apart. Tell you about how I try to avoid wines with cutesy labels (especially ones that conjur images of sweet desserts) – after all, if your wine is good, do you need to trick me with the label? I first tried this wine after a great Chianti Classico, one of the best I’d had in a while, that brought a lot of earthy, savory flavors, and so this “layer cake” did not really measure up. I couldn’t wait to come to my computer and tear it a new one.

Then, however, something interesting happened. I drank an American Zinfandel, then had the Layer Cake again. My perspective was turned on its head. The American wine was heavy, over-oaked, and plodding. The Layer Cake, in contrast, was bright, fruity and even had a hint of that earthiness that I so covet in Italian wines. Was it an amazing wine? No, not amazing. But, in contrast to the “cake” imagery on the bottle, it was actually restrained and balanced, not over the top at all. I wouldn’t go out of my way to get this wine again, but it is certainly enjoyable and would pair nicely with a variety of foods.

Another interesting thing about this wine is that it is labelled as “Primitivo, aka Zinfandel.” According to the Layer Cake website:

Primitivo, aka Zinfandel: DNA analysis shows Primitivo is genetically identical to Zinfandel. Carole Meredith of UC Davis, the most important genetic academic in the world of wine, has confirmed Primitivo & Zinfandel have identical DNA. Primitivo and Zinfandel, however, have not been officially defined as synonymous by the TTB. We presented Dr. Meredith’s findings with the Layer Cake Primitivo label and received the first-ever Certificate of Label Approval with Primitivo and Zinfandel used as synonyms on the label, yet the TTB has still not posted them as interchangeable in the regulations.

Of course, elsewhere I’ve read that Primitivo and Zin are indeed clones of the same varietal, but not the exact same varietal. But then again, aren’t the Sangioveses from Brunello and Chianti different clones as well, yet still both considered Sangio? It’s all very confusing to me. They are very closely related – let’s just leave it at that. Italian Primitivo producers will certainly want to market thier wine as Zin in the US if they can.

Tasting Notes:

This wine is a bit of an enigma; it features both ripe and slightly jammy red fruits, on the nose and palate. Though a little sweet, there is a persistent acidity that keeps it fresh. Palate features hints of earth and tar on the finish. A solid if unspectacular effort.