As a wine buyer operating in a recession/depression/meltdown, my mantra is: Cheap and Cheerful. I want my salespeople to bring me fun, eclectic, tasty, interesting wines for under ten bucks. Very rarely, however, do I find what I call a WOW wine that I feel is not just good, but great considering it is below the ten dollar threshold.
The 2008 Viu Manent Reserve Carmenere, from Chile, is my pick for those looking for an amazing ten dollar wine. Carmenere is a fairly obscure grape from Bordeaux that has made its way to Chile, where it is the country's signature grape. (Although they thought it was Merlot for years before identifying it as Carmenere.) It has the one-two punch of truly interesting aromas and flavors. Now what are those aromas and flavors? Here is where I must demure. Why? I read endless reviews of wines from such publications as Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate stating that wine X has aromas of scorched earth, tar, leather, bramble, boysenberry, kirsch, blah blah blah. When you try a Carmenere, I want you to come to your own conclusions rather than predispose you towards certain results. I also find most wine reviews to be exercises in ego-stroking (and astonishing redundancy and arbitrariness), where the writer wants their laundry list of descriptors to become a self-fulfilling prophecy when the wine is consumed. ("Oh yeah, I do get whiffs of tobacco and spice box.")
I will say this about Carmenere: once you smell and taste it, you will be able to pick it out of a lineup of red wines. It is distinct and delicious. This rich, complex red would be lovely with grilled meats and/or mushrooms.
So what is your pick for the world's best $10 wine?
Jameson Fink is a wine buyer at a bustling grocery store in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. He moved to Seattle from Chicago, where he dabbled in the restaurant and wine industries, five years ago to pursue a full-time career in wine. He'd rather be drinking Champagne and eating popcorn right now.