Trader Joe’s stocks three wines from Italian producer Femar Vini Epicuro that we took for a sip and a spin: they are the 2010 Aglianico, 2012 Primitivo and 2009 Salice Salentino Riserva. All three are priced at a comfortable $5.99.
The Aglianico, from Italy’s Beneventano wine region, showed surprising complexity for the price, offering bang for the buck. Black fruits accented by a touch of tobacco, gentle smokiness, and spice on the finish. The tannins are soft, and the finish is smooth. This is a case buy, me thinks.
The Primitivo – from Puglia, the hot heel of Italy – was a different story. Juicy and jammy, this is a soft, flabby wine. From nose to palate, it’s pretty much a one-hit wonder of sun-soaked mash-up jam and a whiff of licorice. It also paired rather poorly with Carne Asada, standing a bit better on its own as a simple sipper. A primitive Primitivo, if you’ll allow me.
The Salice Salentino (named after a village in the heel of the Italian boot) is a red wine from Southern Italy and has had DOC status since 1976. The grapes are 80% negroamaro and 20% malvasia nera. I was pleasantly surprised by this red. More sour than the smooth Aglianico, it delivers fresh, sour(ish) berries and a hint of violets. As with the Aglianico, the tannins were on the softer side. The acidity played nicely off the fruit that from this southern area of Italy can come off as flabby and overripe all too often. Like so many Italian wines, this red is best served with food (a pizza paired well for us) than on its own. Overall, I’m impressed and will definitely return for more.
Shortly after visiting the Clos Du Val Winery in the Stags Leap District of California’s Napa Valley, we noticed one of their bottles on an episode of Two and a Half Men. There was a pointed finger or two and a happy “Hey!” on our couch, and then time passed. But over the next few months, that same bottle with its easily identifiable terracotta-colored label with the squiggles appeared on How I Met Your Mother, Entourage, and several other shows. Turns out Clos Du Val’s product placement had been some time in the making.
As far back as 2004, both the LA Times and Decanter declared Clos Du Val the winner (or perhaps A winner) of the product placement game. Apparently back then at least “no one tracks wine placements in films and television programs, but Aaron Gordon, president of the Set Resources entertainment marketing firm in Santa Monica, believes that Clos du Val appears in more shows than any other brand”, according to the piece.
This aggressive PR push came on the heels of Clos Du Val having in the past couple years fallen from the elite group of must-have Napa wines. The prominent placements combined with national ratings and reviews, new branding and a price push proved to be a winning combination. Even Wine Spectator, who had gotten down on Clos Du Val for not adapting to the fruit bomb era that customers wanted, praised Clos Du Val in an article titled Napa Mavericks for defying trends.
So now, almost ten years since this change in direction, Clos Du Val is going strong with a vibrant, recognizable brand and a solid product in the bottle. Personally, we are perennial fans of the Carneros Chardonnay and some other delightful discoveries have been their uniquely-branded and old-world leaning Primitivo, which I believe hasn’t been made since 2009, as well as the Carneros Pinot Noir. And the brand, well yes, it is in the back of our heads and catches our eye every time I spot the squiggles and terracotta on TV or at the movies.
With all this visibility, I dare say some of us should get into a long-term drinking game with this. If you spot a Clos Du Val bottle, pour yourself a glass of Cab or Chard in the California fashion!