Chile has long been a good source of value wines. It is also one of the few wine-producing countries focusing on Carmenère, a grape that came to Chile from Bordeaux during the 1850s.
Carmenère, whose alias is Grande Vidure, ripens late. If not fully ripe, the resulting wines can be overly vegetal and herbaceous. Odfjell's Central Valley Armador 2007 is ripe and generous, exhibiting raspberry and blackberry fruit while retaining the peppery tobacco leaf notes distinctive of Carmenère. With its soft tannins, it reminded me of a cross between an Argentine Malbec and a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. I gave it 87 points, non-blind.
Half the grapes come from Colchagua Valley and half from Maipo Valley. To retain the fruit character, the Carmenère is destemmed and 70 percent is fermented in stainless steel tanks, while 30 percent goes into two- and three-year-old oak barrels.
The Armador range is Odfjell's entry-level line of varietals, retailing for $12. One of my neighborhood restaurants, The Black Duck, has it on the wine list for $39.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Odfjell Carmenère Central Valley Armador 2007 (84, $12).