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trader joes merlot copyI seldom dip my toe into the $5 and under wine pool—life is too short. But Trader Joe’s often has some good bargains so I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Meh.

The red-fruited nose is buried in green leafy notes covered up by a weird popcorn aroma which immediately mark this as an inexpensive wine. But there is a pleasant earthiness to the aroma that puts it on the road to redemption.

On the palate it opens smooth and soft yet thin, the medium body lacking viscosity or concentration. But it drinks easy.  There is some red fruit lurking, cherry and cranberry, but too prominent vanilla covers it up. The short finish is angular with sharp acidity that lacks support from wimpy tannins.

Of course much of this is be expected from a $5 wine. (The grapes are organically grown if that matters to you.) The question is whether this is a good value for $5.

You could do worse, and if the combination of popcorn and mushroom is something you find intriguing then by all means go for it. After all when you’re searching the bottom shelf something distinctive and different is more exciting than the usual sea of bland.

Give it points for being quirky but don’t expect to be wowed.

This wine seemed to hit a groove with smooth Latin jazz, like Celso Fonseca’s Meu Samba Torta. The music brings out some lushness.

Score: 82

Price: $5

Alc: 13.5%

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