The Wine 📌
SUSUMANIELLO – Is an obscure native Italian grape from Puglia, Italy’s heel, and Trader Joes has it!
Ruggero di Bardo Susumaniello IGP Puglia 2019.
Just a few years ago I tasted this grape/wine for the first and only time (until now) at the Tre Bicchieri Italian wine tasting in San Francisco. I don’t recall the producer, but I do recall my extraordinary surprise at how I so enjoyed such a full-bodied, ripe rich wine, even at the end of a long tasting day with palate fatigue. If you know my taste, this is a style I personally shy from (an understatement). But when a wine of this style is well-made, balanced with juicy acidity, fresh fruit flavor and roughing tannins, I love the thrill of exceptions to my pre-conceived notions.
Thus I was surprised when I spotted the rare Susumaniello at TJ’s and popped it in my cart for a second try. A couple weeks later, I pulled the signature squat bottle cool from my cellar (aka: garage!) and poured a sample.
COLOR: The color is deep dark ruby with violet reflections, an opaque core yet red shining meniscus. The nose of this cool wine was extremely shy. I couldn’t smell anything on first take, so I feared stale flavor or no fruit.
PALATE: The palate however was a wash of cool weighted purple silk that flowed and broadened across my palate, carrying flavors of concentrated black fruit compote (blackberries, black cherries) with maybe a hint of stewed plum. The tannins came in right behind, broadly, yet also gripping, like velour. The tannins joining the juicy fruit with acidity in tow offered a yin-yang pleasure: juicy-grip, juicy-grip. It was extraordinarily flavorful and surprisingly fresh for its weight and that dark fruit. Being a native Italian grape, it’s not surprising that I also noticed a tone of “rusticity” on the back end.
NOSE: I went back to the nose after the wine warmed a bit. Finally it was revealing black cherry, sweet-savory sage and rosemary, and a faint waft of smoke.
Is it worthy? I love when a wine doesn’t tell its story on first or second sip, but keeps inviting you back to muse why you like it. The fruit? The cool silky mouthfeel and weight? (hint: yes!) The acidity with blanketing carpet of tannins? I keep liking it more upon return.
SERVE at a cool cellar temp for that fresher fruit, cooling sensation. Because of all the fruit and intensity here, you can easily drink (try not to gulp) it on its own. And I will.
PAIRING: For some I’m was craving a gorgonzola-fig-potato pizza when I was tasting this wine. It can stand up to big flavors. It will also play well with simply-prepared meat or game (the wine itself contributing the “sauce”!), heavy appetizers with some complexity (skewered meatballs, sausage-stuffed mushrooms), hamburgers with bacon (hello!), medium to pungent creamy cheeses, or how about mac n cheese.
FINAL ANALYSIS: For $10.99 at Trader Joe’s, if you like a full and rich red wine with a hint of rustic quality, invite that pudgy bottle of Susumaniello in your cart!
SUSUMANIELLO [Soo- ZOO’ Mahn-ee-ELL’ -oh] obscure Italian native grape from Puglia (Italy’s heel) near Brindisi. It has only recently begun gaining some attention as a single variety, with increased plantings in the last ten years. Its home is the Salice Salento and Bari areas along the Adriatic sea where it has played the role of mere blending grape until now. It’s often used in blends of the Negroamaro grape in regional wines.
I’d love your feedback — Did you try this wine? A pairing with it?
Which are YOUR favorite TJ wine finds?
……Drop me a note: MaryBeth@crushcoursewine.com