Trader Joe’s is a fun place to shop, especially for food specialties, incredible cheeses and exciting party dips.
You can also find a good wine or two at a bargain price.
How about a DOCG Barbera D’Asti for $6.99?
Or 91-point Spanish Red Blend for $7.99?
Recently, my Grapefully Yours Wine Podcast co-host Mike Pigeon, aka The Wine Butler, egged me on to take a trip to Trader Joe’s in Nashua to explore the store’s wines.
Click on the following link to watch the show:
Trader Joe’s offers many wines selling for $25 or less, including top-sellers from major producers as well as its own low-cost, brand line sold under the TJ label.
The TJ line is a sight to behold. Pinot Grigio selling for $5.99, Pinot Noir for $10.99, Cabernet Sauvignon for $12.99 and so on. Even wines from Italy and France can be had for under $20.
But are the wines good?
I say, let your palate be your guide. If you like the taste of a wine, drink it no matter what anyone – including wine experts – say about it.
However, the quality of a wine does matter. And high-quality wines usually fetch higher prices.
Which bring me back to Trader Joe’s.
The Wine Butler and I decided to do a random survey of six wines purchased at Trader Joe’s. Our bill came to $62, or roughly $10.30 a bottle.
We also purchased two different packages of creamy goat cheese (one was cherry flavored) and Nann crackers, and then headed to my backyard pergola for a tasting under the first, warm spring sunshine of the season.
I am not going to mention all the brand names of the wines we tasted because three were fairly unremarkable. More important, I understand just how difficult it can be to produce a wine under trying conditions – weather, wildfire, etc. – so I don’t want to criticize a vintner for making a subpar product when factors are out of his/her control. That said, if the same wine tastes poorly two years in a row, I’ll be the first to make a valid claim against it. In the latter case, the wine house is making a bad decision somewhere along the production line.)
The point here is buyer beware. Some bargains are not bargains at all. They are bad, bulk wines put into a bottle for sale at cheap prices.
That said, here are three Trader Joe wines worth trying.
Rosa dell’ Olmo 2021 Barbera D’Asti DOCG, 13% abv. Piedmont, $6.99 – If you desire a good, dry red wine for simple foods like pizza, pasta and meatballs, burghers and even tacos, Barbera is the one. It’s a favorite of Italian winemakers who routinely pour a glass after a day’s work in the vineyards. What stands out for this one is its DOCG status, the highest quality designation under Italian law. I found Rosa dell’ Olmo’s version to be surprisingly flavorful and smooth for the price, with pleasant cherry and strawberry fruit that took on rustic, herbal notes on its way to a medium-long finish.
Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Pinot Noir 2021, Carneros, abv. 14.5%, $12.99 – The grapes are sourced from Sonoma vineyards in a cool-climate zone, and this pale-ruby colored wine is mildly aromatic, fresh, and accommodating on the palate. As far as California pinots go, this one isn’t going to bowl anyone over from a taste profile; it’s simple and serviceable. The designation “Grand Reserve” on the label means nothing – no such American classification exists.
Marques de Colbert Reserva DOP 2017, Utiel-Requena (Spain), abv. 13%, $7.99 – A red blend of two Spanish grapes – Bobal, Tempranillo – that is aged for a minimum 12 months in American oak and then sees extra time in bottle (Spanish wines labeled “reserva” must be aged for three years, with a minimum six months in oak bottles). The process produces a deep purple color, silky texture and dark fruit flavors of better-than-average savory depth. Yes, this is a solid buy at the price. Drink it with roasted meats, venison and hearty stews. JamesSuckling.com gave it 91 points – a bit generous in my view but who am I to quibble with a nice gift from the Marques!