Cheap Wines That Don't Suck: 2007 Trentatre Rosso

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Trentatre Rosso ($5.99 at Trader Joe's) presents a bit of a mystery. The label copy says, "We came up with this blend of three exciting varietals when barrel-tasting 'TATO,' a Montepulciano, in the winemaker's cellar." Who's "we"? Which winemaker? There's no producer listed on the label, only a cryptic "bottled by IRCF MI 6508"; the name of the importer, Santini Fine Wines of San Lorenzo; and a Web address, www.santiniwines.com, which doesn't seem to have any publicly accessible content. The wine is labeled Salento Indicazione Geografica Tipica, which means it's made somewhere around Salento in Puglia. My guess is this is a special blend made exclusively for Trader Joe's (which is the only place I've seen it).

Whatever its story, this is a very good wine for the price. It's made from 33.3% Cabernet, 33.3% Merlot, and 33.4% Montepulciano (hence the name, which means "33"). The wine has nice aromas of plum, coffee, and wine cellar, a smoky flavor with a nice balance of tannins, acid, and fruit, and has a drier finish than most Italian (or California) Cabernet blends. It tastes older than I'd expect from the 2007 vintage date, which makes me suspect the winery follows the old-school practice of aging in large, old oak barrels. It's very food-friendly: I had it with spaghetti carbonara, but it would go with just about anything.

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