2021 Orso Bruno “Old Vine” Zinfandel, Puglia IGP, Italy (Alcohol 13.5%, Residual Sugar 11 g/l) LCBO $10.75 (750ml bottle)

Despite it being almost universally acknowledged that Zinfandel is genetically identical to Puglia’s Primitivo, I’ve always had my doubts, tending to believe the story that they were both slightly different clones of the Croatian grapes Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag. Perhaps I’ve been brainwashed into thinking this by a whole host of Californian winemakers, but I’ve honestly never tasted a Primitivo that really tasted anything like Zinfandel—that is, until last night when I opened a bottle of this Osso Bruno (read: Brown Bear). 

Considering that this is sub-$11 dollar wine, I wasn’t expecting too much, but the value displayed here is truly astounding. Dionysus Wines and Spirits has a seriously solid track record when it comes to sourcing wines that punch well above their relative weight, and with this one, they have really outdone themselves. Saying that, if you have an aversion to Zinfandel, perhaps this won’t be for you, as this is textbook Zin.

Interestingly, it’s not a one-trick-pony fruit bomb. While one won’t discover labyrinth-level complexities in the glass, there’s more than enough going on to keep one’s olfactory organs and tastebuds pleasantly occupied. 

Pouring a deep, rich purple in the glass, the nose exhibits super ripe blackberries, blackcurrants, black raspberries, and stewed prunes, with touches of mocha, leather, earth, and oak spice. 

In the mouth, the tannins are soft and supple, and while the structure doesn’t particularly standout, it’s more than adequate to support the dense, ripe fruit core. I’m honestly amazed that they can produce such a relatively complete, full-bodied wine at this price. 11 g/l residual sugar may seem like a lot, but for comparison, one of the best selling Californian Pinot Noirs trots in at a whopping 28 g/l. The alcohol, despite clocking in at 13.5%, isn’t boozy, as it sits well with the rest of the wine. For me, Zinfandel always has an inherent ripe sweetness that can occasionally fall into the cloying category, but that is certainly not the case here. The dark fruit and cocoa finish extends for a short while, but isn’t too persistent.

I’ll admit that I’m just a sucker for a pretty face label, and I think that the handsome design and branding of this wine are spot on. Not only am I a longtime fan of Italy’s endangered Marsican brown bears, but I also love the way they have integrated the Ursa Major/Great Bear constellation into the design.

I’d pair this with sticky grilled ribs, hearty grilled sausages, and home-made lamb burgers with a little bit of spice in them. 

I’m convinced that this wine will prove itself to be a huge success, particularly with those who enjoy an unashamedly bold, full-bodied Californian, but don’t want to break the bank. Great stuff.

(Four out of a possible five apples)


Orso Bruno is represented in Ontario by Dionysus Wines and Spirits.

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