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 (sourced from 70 to 100-year-old vines) and focussing solely on quality and a modern style, they have revolutionised the style and calibre of Primitivo.
Part of the reason for the continued success of A Mano is the knowledge that Mark and Elvezia have after 18 vintages 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 grapes for this wine come from vineyards in the heart of the Primitivo growing region, located in the low hills east of Taranto in Puglia. The region is an old sea bed, full of fossils of clams, oysters and urchins. The altitude is approximately 20 metres above sea level and annual rainfall is 35 centimetres. The climate is classically Mediterranean as Puglia is a peninsula between the Adriatic and the Ionian seas. The Primitivo vines are quite old; most are the original plantings after phylloxera and range from 70 to 100 years old. As with most vineyards planted at that time they are small bush vines called 'alberello' which are non-irrigated and low yielding. The average Primitivo vineyard is quite small, less than half a hectare and the best sites have a crumbly, dark reddish brown soil that resembles instant coffee.
On arrival at the cellars, the grapes were pressed and destemmed, then allowed to ferment for 36 hours without intervention, then the free run juice was drawn off and the must was cooled to 12°C. After racking in mid-November, the wine remained in an underground cement tank, where the temperature did not exceed 10°C, until bottling.
This wine is deep red in colour. On the nose, there are intense aromas of ripe dark fruit, especially blackberries and cherries, with spicy notes of cocoa, lavender and liquorice. On the palate, it is youthful and full-bodied, with a great concentration of ripe, rounded fruit. It is a very elegant, fresh and complex Primitivo.