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zenato I love it when I pull an inexpensive bottle off the shelf for a little experimentation and it turns out to be a real gem.

Valpolicella, the red blend from the area around Verona, Italy, can often be thin and simple. But this one from Zenato stands out from the crowd. A sinewy body, with vibrant acidity, and firm tannins, it’s the complexity of the nose that sets this wine apart. The standard black cherry flavors are supported by fig and raisin notes. Accents of charred cedar, dark chocolate, dried flowers, earth and very prominent dried marjoram round out a surprisingly complex nose. Fruity up front on the palate, a pleasant herbal bitterness takes over and persists through the medium-length finish that has plenty of tannic grip.

The peppery mouthfeel gives it just enough roguish rusticity to remind you that this is a cheap Italian wine; and you will crave a nice Bolognese to go with it.

A steal at $14.

Good: Complex nose and herbal flavors

Bad: Were you expecting Petrus?

Distinctive: A variety with a questionable reputation gets a make over.