Revisiting the Epicuro red wines

I remember when these wines burst onto the scene late 2007/early 2008 and how much I enjoyed them back then. I’ve certainly drank more than my fair share of these over the years but haven’t posted my thoughts in quite some time. Given I slotted the Aglianico into the 10th position of my Top 10 list and the 8th in the classics I thought it would be prudent to revisit the lineup. With that here we go….
Revisiting the Epicuro red wines

  • 2008 Epicuro Aglianico ($5) – (13.5%) Juicy blackberry and clove notes on the nose. The palate starts with lots of oak and big fruit completely lacking of acidity and/or balance. A jammy mid-palate serves tart blackberries and sage, herbal spice on a quick finish with harsh tannins. Such a shame it makes me wish I had more of the ’05 left. This serves as a textbook case study in the economics of Trader Joe’s wine. It generally follows these steps: 1) Source a new wine. 2) Wine sells well. 3) Ask winemaker to produce more quantity next year but price can’t change. 4) Next vintage is not as good as previous vintage. Snowball that by a few vintages and you have a sad story. Unless you are just looking for something to cook with (and steal a few sips from) I’d steer clear of this one…
  • 2008 Epicuro Nero d’Avola ($5) – (13%) Light fruit and wood on the nose. Juicy with soft, warm fruit on the palate, Despite being only 13% this one seems to be lacking the acidity I would like to see. A bit flabby all the way to the finish before grippy tannins appear in an attempt to rescue this one. While quaffable and fine for everyday “drinking” I would steer well clear if you are looking for a wine to spend some quality time with…
  • 2006 Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva ($5) – (13%) 80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera – Dark purple in the glass, ruby on the edges with dusty, warm fruit and barrel spice on the nose. The palate starts with a mouthful of sweet, juicy cherry and raspberry flavors shrouded in oak which is readily apparent throughout. Despite this shortcoming this wine is light bodied and well balanced with a firm acidic structure that makes it food friendly and a fine companion for cooking. The finish is of dry, tongue smacking tannins that lingers moderately. At this price there is little to complain about…

So there you have it. Disappointing but can’t say I didn’t expect it. My little rant within the Aglianico review rings true for many offerings that start out as great values at Trader Joe’s dating back all the way to Charles Shaw. That one will definitely be falling off both of my lists and the Salice Salentino could be a potential replacement. How about you? Have you had any of the Epicuro offerings as of late? If so I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

2006 Epicuro Nero d’ Avola

2006 Epicuro Nero d' AvolaPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Made only with the Nero d’Avola grapes, this is a great wine with a beautiful rich, bright garnered colour and full bouquet redolent of berries, cherries and spices. The flavour is clear-cut, full-bodied and elegant. Perfect with grilled red meats and game. Serve at 18 degrees Celsius.”

What I Think:

I was fired up to find out about this one via a comment from Jesse Porter. I quite enjoyed the Archero offering and had meant to try a pricier version of this varietal but never got around to it. Nevertheless I was thrilled to land this one on a recent shopping trip which I noted via twitter.

To cut to the chase, the nose smells of simple berry fruit with a hint of dustiness and a bit of spice. In the mouth a full bodied, firm structure greets you leading into a supple palate full of light, ripe red fruit. This lasts until within a fraction of the finish when a tart, astringent finale ends the taste. This one is a winner as is Epicuro, they are certainly the most consistent Italian wine label at Trader Joe’s. Feel free to buy this one along with any others offerings from this label you may find.

Rating: Buy It

2005 Archero Nero d’ Avola Ruggero di Tasso

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by D’Aquino Italian Imports

What They Said:

Per quaffability (for the 2003 version) “This is a jelly-jar wine, and it went fine with grilled tri-tip served with Arugula salad and Parmesan. I’ve never been to Sicily but I can certainly imagine knocking back this stuff by the carafe in a cafe there. It’s an anti-Parkerized wine. Very light in body, fruity and juicy, without much extract and virtually no tannin. Very little acid, too, so there is a sense of roundness as well as lightness.

The wine is not complex at all it’s just juicy with strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Definitely Quaffable, this would not be bad at all chilled or even on ice.”

What I Think:

My struggles with Italian wine have been almost as covered as the Paris Hilton goes to jail story. That said whenever I visit Delfina Pizzeria they usually have a varietal on the menu there that I have never heard of but enjoy. They turned me on to Aglianico sometime ago. When walking by the other day I just glimpsed and noticed a few Nero d’ Avola offerings on their wine list. It made me smile as I had found this Archero bottling at TJ’s.

So a few nights after walking by I decided to open a bottle to eat with my gourmet TJ’s Mac & Cheese. It was kind of pasta so Italian wine seemed like a good idea. The fruit flavors were definitely present and forward, seeming almost jammy like on the palate. A nice wine but not with this food. I finished it with a glass of milk before enjoying a glass of this as a digestive. I think this one is still best suited to play the role of getting pulled out towards the end of the evening…Of for those of you that like a different wine before dinner this would certainly be an option then as well. TJ’s was nearly out last time I checked but if I find it I am certainly game for a few more bottles at this price.

Rating: Buy It

2005 Archero Nero d’ Avola Ruggero di Tasso

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by D’Aquino Italian Imports

What They Said:

Per quaffability (for the 2003 version) “This is a jelly-jar wine, and it went fine with grilled tri-tip served with Arugula salad and Parmesan. I’ve never been to Sicily but I can certainly imagine knocking back this stuff by the carafe in a cafe there. It’s an anti-Parkerized wine. Very light in body, fruity and juicy, without much extract and virtually no tannin. Very little acid, too, so there is a sense of roundness as well as lightness.

The wine is not complex at all it’s just juicy with strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Definitely Quaffable, this would not be bad at all chilled or even on ice.”

What I Think:

This Nero d’ Avola is a wine that I had about a month or so back that piqued my curiosity. I thought I had learned two important lessons then, the first being that this bottle needs some air and the second that it was too light for pairing with food. I think I was wrong on both accounts. I opened this one late one evening as I was enjoying the wine we were having with dinner and was immediately satisfied. Perhaps my expectations were set low but I was pleased with the dark, jam-like flavors on the nose. These translated directly to the palate and the lack of tannins made it thoroughly pleasurable to drink. To top off my list of bad assumptions, the next night I made some pasta in a slightly sweeter, rather than my usual spicy, style and this wine showed well again. This time, it was a glass of this that I wanted to save for tomorrow.

That being said I would guess this has limited range from a pairing perspective so tread carefully or feel free to drink it all on its own. I have yet to try it chilled as mentioned above and likely won’t as it doesn’t fit my fancy. If it does yours, let me know how it goes.

This one certainly deserves that graduation from 12th Bottle to Buy It. At $3.99 you can’t go wrong. This is what I call the perfect “guilt-free” wine for any occasion. At this price you’ll never regret opening another bottle.

Rating: Buy It

2005 Archero Nero d’ Avola Ruggero di Tasso

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by D’Aquino Italian Imports

What They Said:

Per quaffability (for the 2003 version) “This is a jelly-jar wine, and it went fine with grilled tri-tip served with Arugula salad and Parmesan. I’ve never been to Sicily but I can certainly imagine knocking back this stuff by the carafe in a cafe there. It’s an anti-Parkerized wine. Very light in body, fruity and juicy, without much extract and virtually no tannin. Very little acid, too, so there is a sense of roundness as well as lightness.

The wine is not complex at all it’s just juicy with strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Definitely Quaffable, this would not be bad at all chilled or even on ice.”

What I Think:

The bottle says it is from southwest Sicily, not that I have had enough wine from the region to know the difference but thought that I may find it of interest at some point in the future. This wine started slowly but grew on me over the three days that it was open. Strangely, as this is a light wine, I think that it is better without food. It is either that or the air that made the difference in the dramatic improvement after the first night. Still not impressed enough to go buy this in bulk but one bottle is pretty much in my next case just to try it again.

Rating: 12th Bottle