Pinotage vs Primitivo: Both Big Red Wines

pinotage vs primitivo infographic

It’s logical to think about a side-by-side comparison of Pinotage vs Primitivo; these two wines are very similar.

Both Pinotage and Primitivo are full-bodied red wines. Pinotage has distinctive notes of dark berries, coffee, and a hint of smokiness. Primitivo has black fruit, raisin, and a jammy quality. Both Pinotage and Primitivo pair well with heavier dishes, like stews and grilled meats.

Here’s what you need to know about Pinotage vs Primitivo.

Pinotage Basics: A Bold South African Gem

pinotage wine profile - pinotage vs Primitivo

Pinotage, hailing from South Africa, isn’t as widely known as other red wines. Often associated with regions like Stellenbosch and Paarl, Pinotage offers a robust flavor profile with pronounced dark fruit notes and a subtle earthiness. Pinotage is well-known for its full body, similar to Primitivo. (For a deeper dive into Pinotage wines, explore here.)

Fun Wine Fact: Pinotage is a new wine grape that’s only been around for about 100 years.

Primitivo Wine Basics: Full-Bodied Red

Fun Wine Fact: Primitivo goes by Zinfandel outside of Italy.

pinotage vs Primitivo - Primitivo wine profile infographic

Primitivo, or Zinfandel, is most at home in Southern Italy and California’s warmer growing climates, like Paso Robles, parts of Sonoma, and Lodi. Primitivo is a late, uneven-ripening grape, meaning that you can get fresh fruit flavors, jammy flavors, and even raisin flavors in your wine, giving it layered complexity. Primitivo’s known for its full body and higher-alcohol wines. (Check out this comprehensive guide to Primitivo wine.)

Wine Comparison: Pinotage vs. Primitivo

Characteristics Pinotage Primitivo
Hue Deep ruby to garnet Deep ruby to almost black
Color Red Red
Aromas Dark berries, smoke, meat, earthy Blackberry, cherry, raisin
Sweetness Dry Dry to off-dry
Acid Medium minus to medium Medium minus to medium
Tannin High-firm Medium-softer
Alcohol (%) 13-15% 14-17%
Body Full Full
Intensity Pronounced Pronounced (a little less than Primitivo)
Key Growing Regions South Africa California, Croatia, Italy
Classic Pairings Grilled meats, spicy dishes Barbecue, hearty stews, pizza
Price Range $10-$30 $10-$40

Here’s a quick side-by-side that covers the most common styles of Pinotage and Primitivo.

Pinotage Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Pinotage is usually made in a dry style.
  • Alcohol: Pinotage wines generally have a moderate to high alcohol content, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
  • Acid: Pinotage tends to have medium (-) acid, similar to Primitivo, giving it a plusher mouthfeel
  • Body: Known for its medium (+) to full body, similar to Primitivo
  • Tannins: Pinotage tends to have firm tannins, like Primitivo, contributing to its structure and aging potential.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes dark berries, coffee, and a hint of smokiness, meat, or leather.

Primitivo Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Primitivo is almost always made in a dry style unless it is an inexpensive bulk wine; higher alcohol Primitivos(16%+) may have a little residual sugar because the yeast couldn’t ferment the wine dry.
  • Alcohol: Primitivo wines are typically high alcohol, sometimes a little higher than Pinotage, ranging from around 13% to 16% ABV.
  • Acid: Primitivo tends to have medium minus to medium acid, similar to Pinotage.
  • Body: Primitivo boasts a bold and full-bodied profile, accompanied by firm tannins.
  • Tannins: Primitivo tends to have softer tannins than Pinotage.
  • Flavor: Rich flavors of blackberry, black plum, cherry, raisin, and black currant.

Helpful Tip: If you’re unsure about serving temperatures, here’s a breakdown of wine serving temperatures for different wine styles and occasions.

Are Pinotage and Primitivo Similar?

Pinotage and Primitivo are both red wines crafted in a dry style. Both wines will exhibit dark plum and cherry notes. Both wines have a firm tannin structure and a full body.

What Is the Difference Between Pinotage and Primitivo?

Pinotage showcases more non-fruit aromas and flavors than Primitivo, such as meat, smoke, leather, and rubber. Pinotage vs Primitivo really comes down to the aromas and flavors.

Pinotage vs Primitivo Winemaking

Both Pinotage and Primitivo can be oaked to impart toast, vanilla, or mocha flavors. Pinotage, however, is more challenging to work with in the winery than Primitivo, and winemakers need to be vigilant with fermentation temperatures. Without careful monitoring, Pinotage can develop off-putting rubbery notes.

Helpful Tip: Here’s what oak adds to wine.

Pinotage vs Primitivo Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

pinotage vs Primitivo wine - steak

Both Pinotage and Primitivo share that bold and robust character, making them excellent companions for hearty dishes, grilled meats, and flavorful cheeses.

Both Pinotage and Primitivo are best enjoyed at a slightly cool temperature. Place them in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Note: You may need to decant both Pinotage and Primitivo if they are made in a fuller-bodied style. If your wine seems closed when you first take a sip, give it a good swirl or let it sit for about 10 minutes to see if it opens up.

Discover More:
Pinotage Cheese Pairing Guide

Which Is More Expensive, Pinotage vs Primitivo?

pinotage vs primitivo - primitivo wine price

Pinotage and Primitivodiffer in price points on the export market. Pinotage may not be as widely available as Primitivo, especially in the US, but entry-level Pinotage does exist depending on your location.

Pinotage Cost

Entry-level Pinotage wines are generally affordable, ranging from $10 to $18 per bottle. Premium Pinotage wines can reach higher price points, around $25 to $40, offering more complexity and depth.

Helpful Wine Buying Tip: Pinotage is one of those wines where you always want to purchase the more expensive bottle. Because of how challenging it is to work with, poorly made Pinotage is truly awful. Check out more in the full Pinotage guide.

Primitivo Cost

Primitivo wines are widely available at various price points. You’ll find budget-friendly Primitivo from Italy starting under $10 USD. These wines, while more affordable, are typically made in an off-dry (slightly sweet) style.

Primitivo starts to get interesting around $18-$20 USD. Premium Primitivo wines sourced from old vines and historic vineyards will cost you around $45-$65 USD.

Which Is Better, Pinotage or Primitivo?

If you enjoy bold and robust red wines with tannin, meat, and tobacco, Pinotage is the better choice for you. If you prefer a more fruit-forward wine, then Primitivo may be a better option. But if you love all styles of Primitivo, you’re likely to enjoy Pinotage, too.

Final Thoughts – Pinotage or Primitivo?

pinotage vs Primitivo - red wine glass

Personally, I find Pinotage a little more interesting (and typically less alcoholic) than Primitivo wines, but this is the drinker’s preference.

I do have both Pinotage and Primitivo in my cellar and will choose to pair them for different dishes. Primitivo’s definitely easier to source in California where I live, and is drinkable at all price points. You need to be slightly more cautious when buying Pinotage or else you can wind up with a ghastly wine.

Pinotage needs you to think a little more about what you want. From what label you buy to how you’re going to pair this unique red wine.

I always recommend organizing a side-by-side tasting to fully appreciate the differences between these two wines. Grab two bottles of similarly priced Pinotage and Primitivo, invite a few friends over, and enjoy an evening of swirling and sipping.

Thirsty for More?

I believe in enhancing your wine knowledge through side-by-side tastings. Here’s a guide on how to host your own wine tasting for beginners.

Check out this post on Malbec vs. Syrah, another popular red wine, along with Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot.

You can discover delicious wines at every price point. Explore this post on finding great red wines under $50.

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