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natura carmenereCarmenere is my go-to cheap wine when I want something different. Whatever its flaws may be, it is always bracing and interesting in a freaky sort of way. And this one is no exception.

Prominent wild, bitter herbal notes rest on a layer of earth wrapped in black cherry. We’re not talking sage or thyme here—more like chicory or dandelion. On the medium-bodied palate, dark, wood-laced, fruit with charcoal notes provide plenty of flavor up-front. But there is a mid-palate hole where the fruit starts to fade and the bitter herbs are exposed leading to a disjointed finish, not quite in balance. Grainy tannins and good acidity give it a rustic mouthfeel.

There is a sensibility that will enjoy this wine. It is distinctive, forceful, and does not concede anything to the easy-drinking crowd. We need more wines like this on the bottom shelf of supermarkets. After all, prominent bitterness doesn’t deter all those IPA or 80% chocolate fans. Rustic wines like this have a lot to offer if your palate doesn’t need to be constantly coddled by sweet fruit.

Kudos for Emiliana (owned by Banfi) for producing wine that is affordable and distinctive.

Score: 86

Price: $9

Alc: 13.5

Pair with this gorgeous, heartbreaking performance of Rootless Tree by Damien Rice, the very essence of bitter: