A Trader Joe’s Sumo Wine Muscle Tussle

Fast facts:

  • 2016 Ruggero de Bardo, Susumaniello Puglia, Italy ($9.99 @Trader Joe’s,  California)
  • 2016 Caves du Fournalet, Cotes du Rhone ($6.99 @Trader Joe’s,  California)
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It was the unique bottle shapes that first caught our eye and lead to our putting these two in the ring for a fight.

It’s Thirsty Thursday – and time for this week’s Vinopointer post!

As you can see from the photo above, we have begun decorating the Penthouse Suite here at the Vinopointer Tower in giddy anticipation of the upcoming holiday season. Our first of many holiday parties is this coming weekend, and we plan to wow our guests with some of the best wine finds from – you guessed it – Trader Joe’s and Costco.

Speaking of wine finds from Trader Joe’s.  As I was perusing the European wine section at my local TJs, I couldn’t help but notice how these two wines featured a similar unconventional bottle shape.  While they are not exactly identical (one has sloped shoulders and one has the more muscular high shoulders) both have a lower center of gravity than traditional 750ml wine bottles. Since they remind me of Sumo wrestlers, I thought I would “put them in the ring” together and see which one would win!

Beyond their similar stout shape, I thought it would be interesting to see what else they might have in common.  For starters, they are both 2016 red wines from “old world” wine producing countries. In this case, Italy and France.  Both are priced under $10, which more often than not, gets a wine “invited to the dance” here at Vinopointer.  Once poured into a glass however, these two wines actually have very little in common.

The Italian – after 25 years in the wine business I must say that I had never heard of the grape Susumaniello, let alone tasted a wine made from this grape. The relentless search for new and interesting wine grapes is what initially drew me to the wine business, so I was intrigued. This one turns out to be really obscure. Apparently, the grape is found only in Puglia, the heel on Italy’s boot.

APULIA

I was immediately struck by how “big” this wine is.  It is dark and brooding with big, concentrated flavors of black fruits like berries, plums and raisins.  It reminds me a bit of an Amarone.  Unlike a lot of Italian wines, it is not acidic.  It is actually really smooth and would pair well with roasted red meats, spicy pizzas and creamy pasta sauces. At just $9.99, this one is a winner and if you find some at your local Trader Joe’s consider picking up a bunch. This would be a great weeknight house wine for the cold weather months ahead.

The French – in the unlikely event that you are tasting – or serving – these wines together as I did, you would be well served to start with the Fournalet GSM (wines made from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre grapes) as it is a noticeably lighter bodied wine. Not that it is a bad thing, as there is nothing necessarily wrong with this wine, it is just unremarkable. The wine starts with an alluring whiff of vanilla, oak and blackberry. It features smooth flavors of  red licorice, red raspberry and rhubarb pie.  The best thing about it is its $6.99 price.

But even though the French wine is one-third less costly, you get four times more flavor from the Italian one.  So the winner of this Sumo Smack Down is the Italian. Like we said, stock up on this one.

As always, if you have a chance to try either one or both of these wines, drop us a line and let us know what you thought using the Contact Us page.

Cheers!

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