Campagna Gello, “Il Valore”, Primitivo, IGT Puglia, Italy 2004 ($5)
A Trader Joe’s market recently opened here in the Twin Cities. I’ve been a longtime customer for my days living in California, but my purchases over the past 20 years has been infrequent. For readers not familiar with the chain, they are a gourmet market that takes a different approach to stocking their shelves. In place of high-end brands, they carry high quality foods that they private label to keep costs low and pass this along to customers. Their frozen orange chicken is amazing and in expensive, but I digress.
When I first got into wine in the early 1980′s Trader Joe’s was a regular haunt for their private label wines, many very good values from top producers who sold these wines off in bulk for quick cash-flow. Trader Joe’s would label them and sell these for $1.99 or $2.99 a bottle. Occasionally they would also have a close out on a name brand wine that would quickly sell-out. The Trader Joe’s wine selection of today is dominated by the Charles Shaw brand of “Two-buck Chuck” fame. While some of these wines are good values (actually anything drinkable for $2-3 a bottle is a good value these days) the other exclusive brands usually offer better value for just a buck or two more.
One of these is “Il Valore” which is a brand for Italian wines that I have blogged and podcasted here before. They have 3 or 4 wines and the one that first caught my attention was their Primitivo that I will review now. I first heard about this wine from another blog and had high hopes this would provide for an interesting tasting. I’ve had several Primitivo in the past, but none of them were as good as most California Zinfandel despite the DNA linkage with Zinfandel and parent Crljenak Kastelanski. I think of Zinfandel and Primitivo as twins separated at birth with each adapting to their terroir and producing similar, but different wines. This wine does not change my opinion on this matter but is a pretty smokin’ value.
The wine is garnet in color with aromas of earthy blackberry and violets. The flavors are of dark fruit, earth and black pepper with dusty tannins and nice acidity for food. I can’t point to a better California Zinfandel at $5 a bottle with this much varietal character, but I really haven’t tried many lately. Don’t expect Zinfandel forward fruit and enjoy this wine for it’s earthy goodness and low for Zin (or Primitivo) alcohol.
Synthetic cork closure (easily removed)