Visellio, Tenute Rubino, Primitivo Salento, 2006, Red wine from Italy
I am actually surprised at myself — for giving this wine 7 points. For a Primitivo! But it’s an honest score. Many years ago, together with my team, we visited the Tenute Robino winery. What a noble name: “Noble Estate” – although it strongly contradicts the location of the winery. If you’d expect a charming, romantic estate somewhere in Apulian hills, surrounded by vines and olive trees — well, you’d be quite mistaken. Unfortunately, Tenute Rubino’s location is in the suburbs of Brindisi, which are really ugly. There are so many beautiful places, villages and towns in Apulia, but the worst are the suburbs of Bari and, even more so, Brindisi. Visually a killer, socially probably very problematic — and, like in the industrial areas of such cities, completely faceless and dusty. Although the building is quite modern and very functional, it lacks any flair. It reminds me of Cosimo Taurino (https://avdwineandfood.net/2015/06/01/patriglione-salento-2001-cosimo-taurino/), which I also visited some years ago – another unattractive place. But both produce good wine.
Between my visit to Brindisi and today, it would seem that Tenute Robino has grown. On their website you can find a large variety of white and reds. I cannot recall seeing so many sorts of wine from 2008. I can’t even find this “Visellio” on their site, so it’s very possible that the wine has a different name now — or is simply not being produced anymore. That would be a shame, since this is one of the best reds I’ve had for some time. In particular because it’s a Primitivo. Even Italian “Primitivo” does not automatically mean primitive. Although it is a rather simple grape, which – by the way – exists almost exclusively in Apulia. There are wine experts who consider Zinfandel to be related to Primitivo. This is hard to imagine, considering the distance between the most prominent areas for each: Apulia and California. Many people may know Primitivo as low-priced red wine, often of low quality. Indeed, there are terrible Primitivos. Without knowing the producers — and considering the price — you should not expect anything particularly good. And Primitivo has become more and more popular in recent years – most likely because it’s rather cheap, and at the same time quite full-bodied and fruity. Some winemakers saw this opportunity and started producing top quality wines from these same grapes. Visellio is such a product.
The vineyards (more than 200 hectares) of the Rubino family lie mostly along the Adriatic coast, in a stretch all around Brindisi (Salento). The winery itself – the place of production – is modern but charmless, and houses their very contemporary production facilities. At end of the 1990s, they invested a good bit in their cellars – incomparable at the time with other wineries in the very Southern part of Italy — which has been always one of the poorest regions. I remember meeting Luigi Rubino, the head of the family, who had a somewhat ambiguous approach: he wasn’t terribly down-to-earth, like many of the more dogmatic but successful winemakers, who find their passion in both the vineyard and cellar — but not so much in the business end of things. Luigi also prioritizes the marketing and sales – perhaps additionally to promote Apulia as a tourist destination. I don’t know how it is today, but in 2008 he had just started selling his wines abroad – not only in other parts of Italy (who, by the way, never thought Apulian wine was any good), but to other European countries and in particular to the USA.
This family’s passion for wine, combined with their great craftsmanship, can certainly be confirmed! I thought it would be risky storing a Primitivo for eight years in the cellar, but I’ve kept one bottle for that long. We drank a ten-year-old Primitivo and it is one of the best red-wines I’ve had in quite a long time. Of course it’s rich, strong, intense, with a lot of tannin — as all these southern Italian wines are. But also fresh! Straightforward! Not sweet, but smooth. This is a very dry red wine, spicy, a bit of tobacco, a bit of dark chocolate, with notes of clove and licorice. Wild blackberries. Very complex and elegant with a great satisfying finish. Wow!
It’s recommended to drink this wine cold. At least to start off cold and let it become warmer in the decanter. In Apulia, where you get Primitivo at every trattoria or pizzeria as their house wine – usually it’s the wine from very nearby – it’s always served refrigerated. Some would perhaps assume that this is due to the “simple” quality of this wine. 2006 Visellio is the best proof that chilled red wine during summer can be extremely delicious. I mean, it warms up quickly in the glass in any case. And how often have we all been served wine that’s too warm?!
I have no idea if all of the vintages are developing like the 2006, which was a great vintage for almost all Italian wines. While reading up on it online, I found that someone had written: “this is precise and delicious.” This is absolutely correct!
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you’ll find the 2006 vintage of this wine anywhere. I don’t have one anymore either, since I opened my last bottle a few days ago. I am not sure if it would get better if it matured a few more years. My feeling was that it was the right time to open it!
Find more about the vinery at https://www.tenuterubino.com/it/.