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…

2007 Epicuro Vermentino

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by D’Aquino Italian Imports

What They Said:

2007 Epicuro VermentinoPer the bottle “Made only with Vermintino grape, this is a great wine with a straw yellow color and fruity, fragrant, well orchestrated aroma. The flavor is full, soft and rich. Perfect with pasta, unmatured cheeses, traditional dishes of fish or white meat.”

What I Think:

Joe’s Sears recently covered this one and given that I have had it before and had another bottle in the house I figured it was due time I give this one a review. For your random fact today I offer that this hails from the region of Lazio which includes Rome. As many readers know, the Epicuro label is a favorite of mine so when this showed up six plus months ago I was quick to grab it. Since then I have received numerous recommendations, thanks to all, to make sure I didn’t miss this one.

So why did it take me so long to review? Frankly because I still haven’t passed a final verdict on this one. At times I like it and others it seems like a quaffable and innocuous wine. On the nose I never seem to get much, a bit of mineral and grass at best. On the palate, if you really pay attention, you get some melon rind flavors over a stony, metallic backbone that leads to a nutty almond finish that intermingles with herb flavors. This is an easy quaffer but difficult wine to taste. If you grab it try pairing it with shellfish.

Rating: 12th Bottle

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

2003 Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva

2003 Epicuro Salice Salentino RiservaPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by D’Aquino Italian Imports

What They Said:

Per snooth.com “A great value, I’d be happy to drink this on a regular basis. It’s a blend of 80% negroamaro and 20% malvasia nera, with mineral and berry notes. It is dry, and light-bodied for a red wine. Some may find this a little watery, but it has a flavorful finish. No heavy alcohol fumes or need to breathe first, like so many wines at this price point.”

What I Think:

After trying their Aglianico I was willing to try the rest of their offerings. Like the previous bottle and the Nero d’ Avola I’ve previously enjoyed this wine was also from southern Italy. This one was a blend of 80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera which immediately sends me to Wikipedia as I have heard of neither. Negroamaro is grown almost exclusively in Puglia which is also the home of Primitivo (a relative of Zinfandel) which I have much enjoyed. All signs seem to be pointing in this ones favor.

On opening my interest is piqued. The nose was full of earth and herbs. On the palate more of the same, very earthy and robust with hints of cherries. The finish was long and flavorful, with fruit tailing off to a woody, smoky ending. Another keeper from southern Italy which has clearly put itself on my map.

Rating: Buy It

2005 Epicuro Aglianico

2005 Epicuro AglianicoPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by D’Aquino Italian Imports

What They Said:

Per the bottle “This red wine shows intense blackberry and cherry notes harmoniously exalted by a light spicy background. Smooth and velvety with a firm backbone. Perfect with red meat, ham and mature cheeses”

What I Think:

Ah my nemesis, Italian wine. I want to like them but am often confounded. The Aglianico grape I discovered at Delfina Pizzeria some time back. I have since purchased a few bottles but have paid north of $15 for each. To see this offering at TJ’s for $5 was so delightful that I bought two bottles before even tasting it. You’re probably saying “Wow, he sure did splurge!” mockingly but for me this is a rarity. These wines hail from southern Italy which is no shock to me as the other Italian varietals I enjoy (Nero d’ Avola from Sicily and Primitivo from Puglia) are found here as well. Back to my opening, perhaps it is the wines from the northern region that leave me confounded…

As soon as I got this home it ended up on the table with pizza and I quickly confirmed my intuition to buy multiple bottles was correct. On first taste, the wine struck me as light, fruity and slightly on the dry side reminding me of many Spanish efforts I enjoy. The nose showed mainly cherries with some barrel scents and spiciness lingering in the background. A great value at this price, almost a lock to make the Top 10 for January. In fact yesterday I went hunting for more but struck out as they did not have it in South San Francisco.  They did however have another offering from the same label I grabbed based on the quality found here. I’ll have to get back to Brannan Street quickly!

Rating: Bulk Buy