By producing wines of quality, Mark Shannon and his partner, Elvezia Sbalchiero, have succeeded in making Primitivo one of Italy’s most talked about grape varieties. By paying high prices for the best grapes (from 70 to 100 year old vines) and focussing solely on quality and a modern style, they have revolutionised the style and quality of Primitivo.
Part of the reason for the continued success of A Mano is the greater knowledge that Mark and Elvezia have after almost a decade of vintages (the first was as a consultant for another company) in the region. Not only are they getting access to Salento’s best grapes, but their growers have also come to realise that if they want the higher price paid by A Mano, they need to provide even better grapes than in previous years. The quality of the grapes shines through in the resulting wines. Puglia (the heel of the boot) is one of Italy’s largest grape growing regions. Primitivo has been grown in Puglia for centuries and was first registered as a monoculture vineyard in 1799. Primitivo has historically been grown in the “alberello” (bush vine) system where yields are very low and the fruit is completely exposed to sunlight for the entire growing season. The best vineyard sites have a crumbly dark reddish brown soil that resembles instant coffee. Like its cousin Zinfandel, Primitivo is an uneven ripening grape and has a strong tendency to raisin. The presence of 3-5% raisins in a cluster indicates full ripeness.