nero grandeThis is an odd duck, so I couldn’t resist buying a bottle. It’s unusual to see a wine made in the appassimento style for $7. “Appassimento” means the grapes were dried after harvest for several months to concentrate the flavor usually on bamboo racks. This is an expensive process since it takes time and you lose bulk when the grapes are dried meaning it takes more grapes to make a bottle of appassimento wine.

And this wine’s origins are a bit of a mystery. On the winery’s website and in other bottle images I’ve seen, this wine is reported to be from Puglia, a warm region in Italy’s boot. But this bottle says the grapes are from Italy with no more specific identifier, so the grapes can legally come from anywhere in Italy. And when you read the fine print it says “bottled by Femar Vini Sri”. In other words, the wine was not made by the winery whose name is on the bottle. We don’t know who made the wine. All of this tells me they bottle a batch of this wine specifically for Trader Joe’s using bulk wine. But I’ve never heard of bulk wine made in the appassimento style—economically it makes no sense. The website says the wine is made from Negroamaro, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon but I can’t be sure since it isn’t obvious the wine in the bottle is the same as the wine on the website.

All mystery aside is the wine any good? If you like lush, heavy wines on the sweet side you will enjoy this and is good value for the price. It wasn’t for me. Aromas of blackberries and tarragon showed promise but the heat from the alcohol was distracting and made it hard to enjoy them. The palate is sweet, smooth and deeply concentrated with distinct raisin notes, but as with most very ripe wines with soft tannins, the ample acidity turns sour on the finish because the wine is out of balance.

Stalwart yet sweet like a power ballad. Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ was locked in.

Score: 83

Price: $7 at Trader Joe’s

Alc: 14.5%