Crush Notes 9 Wine Reviews 9 TRADER JOE’S – 12.99 under- Wine #2- Susumaniello

TRADER JOE’S – 12.99 under- Wine #2- Susumaniello

by | Thursday, January 7, 2021 | Wine Reviews, Wine Regions, Food & Wine

Let’s continue our walk down Trader Joes’ wine aisle!

As I shared in Tuesday’s email, I accepted a wine challenge – find wines $12.99 & UNDER, from one wine re-seller. I chose TRADER JOE’S!  Are there any I’d recommend?
I’m happy to report, of the 9 I put in my cart, I can also recommend the second wine I opened. This wine is a RED, and it couldn’t be more opposite in body and personality than the gossamer-light white I recommended yesterday!  

Ready for my WINE PICK #2? Scroll down now for my review!  

How about the next 3 wines?  Watch your inbox! I’ll be sending them out over the next few days. 

Missed the background on this challenge or my Wine Pick #1?  Again, check your inbox for my 12/5 email.

“Under $12.99” Wines – What to Expect

That’s a good price. And if we can even go lower yet – hooray!  It’s often challenging though to discover wines of true interest and complexity made at a low price point. Can we find tasty and popular wines? Sure can. To hit a price under $12.99, wines are often (not always) made to “scale” – in larger bulk quantities with less attention to distinction – that appeal to the “broad palate” with year upon year flavor consistency (rather than vintage variation). There’s nothing inherently wrong with a beverage made flavorful, appealing to the broad palate. Some low-priced wines have big “one-note” flavors and often feature a predictable body style that many people really like. That’s fine (hey, we like the big, sweet, predictable flavors of Pepsi and Coke don’t we?). Continue to ALSO purchase and drink those wines if you dig them. (While… also adding new wine discoveries to your repertoire!)   

But my purpose is finding and sharing bottles that display wine’s array and potential complexity of features– those that make it a wine and not merely any beverage – those that highlight something individual and unique about the wine inside: the specific grape variety or the region or a winemaking style – and of course achieves overall deliciousness or delight, with layers or flavor or aroma.

Thus, I’m tasting to find wines that showcase wine’s distinct attributes – that highlight a nice balance among its components: fruit, hopefully other interesting aromas/flavors, refreshing acidity, tannins, and body (whether full and silky or light and dancing), all coming together in something either lovely or magical or interesting or unique!  It’s easier to find wines with these attributes at price points north of $18.99, while much more challenging south of $12.99 (more on the “why” of this in a future blog!)

Trader Joe’s – Great Prices! 

Tuesday we talked about what great prices you find at Trader Joe’s. Some wines are priced extremely low!  Does that mean these are one-note “beverage” wines?  Well, we have unique opportunities to find something more interesting at Trader Joe’s.

TJ’s is in a good position to offer us wines at exceptional prices. In fact, a fair selection of TJ’s wines aren’t even available at other stores – why?  Because for many, especially imports, their wine team cuts out the “middle-man” going direct to independent wineries or cooperatives of small regional growers. They work directly with these independents to negotiate a killer price to craft new, or distribute an existing local wine under a special label exclusive TJ’s. The benefit to you is the rare possibility (possibility I say) of finding a $4.99 wine that may “drink like” a $14.99 bottle, or an $8.99 wine that may drink like an $18.99 bottle.
I encourage you to take the risk on such low prices at TJ’s. What a great place to experiment. But if you’re not feeling risky, I’m tasting them for you!

So…Here’s my second “Grab it Now” TJ’s Bargain wine pick:

WINE PICK #2: Ruggero di Bardo Susumaniello IGP Puglia, 2019

My Purchase Price:  $10.99 – Trader Joe’s

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: