marchigueI am a fan of unusual wines, especially when they are inexpensive. With the hundreds if not thousands of wines available on any city block, 1/2 of them tasting so much alike, it is cause for celebration when you find something strikingly different.

On that score Carmenere almost always delivers. Although originally a Bordeaux varietal, it is now seldom grown in France due to its susceptibility to disease. But it has found a home in the drier, geographically protected, valleys of Chile. And it usually produces a wild and unpredictable tasting experience, sort of like meeting Charlie Sheen for dinner.

This Carmenere plays to type. The fruit is almost prune-like, very ripe and dark for Carmenere but wild herbal notes, marjoram and mint, bushwack the senses, with coffee and fresh earth playing more subdued background music. The palate has an oily texture with some viscosity, very full body for Carmenere, with some sugar apparent. But the ample acidity and bitter herbal flavors on the finish balance that richness and give it hints of rusticity. Tannins are soft and the finish relatively short.

Easy drinking but interesting, it seems a bit manufactured on the palate perhaps with added sugar to boost viscosity but the wild and wonderful flavors make this a real treat at this price. The hint of sweetness will make this a good barbecue wine or serve it with meat sauces that have a bit of sweetness to them like a mole.

Score: 89

Alc: 13.5

Price: $8 at Trader Joe’s