It's likely that 2004 Salice Salentino from Epicuro Winery was the first cheap wine from Trader Joe's that surprised me. Salice Salentino (pronounced sah-leech-e sal-en-teen-o) is a small Italian town on the heel of the boot just north of Lecce. Salice Salentino red wine is made primarily of Negro Amaro, which literally translates black cherry. The wine also includes grape varieties Malvasia Nera di Brindisi and Malvasia Nera di Lecce.
This particular wine is DOC, which means that the government makes sure that the grapes are derive from a specific region and that the wine is produced by traditional methods. Another Italian label for quality insurance is DOCG, which is a more stringent label used to identify smaller regions within DOC regions. DOCG wines are usually better quality than DOC wines and more expensive.
Salice Salentino is one of my favorite wines in Italy because it is medium to full bodied with dark, rich fruit and spice. We had an amazing bottle of Salice Salentino when we were in Italy for 6.99 euros, so it makes sense that the wine can be found in the US for reasonable prices. Epicuro's wine has a nice brightness to it, followed by a medium heat and spice, and while it is not the best out there, is a good wine.
We had ours with White Bean Soup with Roasted Vegetables on the side:
Ingredients for Soup:
1 1/2 onions
2 stalks celery chopped
6 cups broth/water
1 1/2 dried white beans
2 whole cloves garlic unpeeled
2 tsp salt
Directions: Cook onion, celery, and butter for five minutes. Add liquid and bring it to a boil. Add beans, garlic, and salt and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat for an hour. After an hour, boil again for 1-2 hours or until beans have softened. Remove from heat. Strain the beans, catching liquid into a large bowl. Puree the bean mixture, then return to large pan. Add 1/4 cup milk and broth until desired consistency is reached. Finished with a touch of cream.
For vegetables, just chop up your favorites (we used eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, red onion, and red pepper) and toss them into a well olive oiled baking pan. Salt liberally (sea salt is the best) and add another dose of olive oil (note: the quality of olive oil for this dish is not as important as others). Preheat the oven at 450 degrees and roast for 20-25mins.