A Wine Lover's Weekly Guide To $10 Wines - A Red  Bordeaux-Type Blend From Chile

Over the years Chile has become an important producer of red wine. Its signature grape variety is Carmenere, one that virtually disappeared from Bordeaux long, long ago. Here we taste a blend of two grapes that are still popular in Bordeaux and elsewhere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The good news is the price tag which is way, way below Bordeaux prices. Will you get a bargain?

This particular wine is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot. The producer Concha Y Toro is Chile's largest wine producer; it has a joint project with Domaines Philippe de Rothschild but obviously not for the wine reviewed below. This bottle comes from Chile's major wine region, the Central Valley not far south of the capital, Santiago and is one of Chile's best selling wines in the United States.

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price. Wine Reviewed Concha Y Toro Frontera Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2007 13% alcohol under $7

Let's start with the marketing materials. Tasting Note: Deep ruby color; light cassis, plum, cherry, currant, raspberry, chocolate, earth & mint aroma; good berry flavor, through to finish light body. Serving Suggestion: Serve with grilled meats. And now for my review.

I started by sipping this wine without any food. At first it was robust and fairly long with round tannins. But as I drank some more it seemed flabby, not acidic enough. For the first pairing I went with a beef stew accompanied by potatoes and carrots. I sensed chocolate. When I added a strong green jalapeno pepper sauce the wine got more chocolatey.

The second meal involved barbecued spare ribs, potato salad, and a combination of snow peas and mushrooms. The wine was very thick. I tasted dark fruits but there was something not entirely pleasant in the background. The mild tasting potato salad managed to gut the wine. When I added some jalapeno pepper sauce the wine was muted, but not gutted.

This is presumably not a wine for chicken, but I do know what it tastes like in the presence of beef. So I paired it with various pieces of barbecued chicken accompanied by zucchinis stuffed with rice. The blend was robust and tasted of black cherries and chocolate. This was not a bad combo, certainly the best of the three pairings.

Now for the cheeses. With a Mozzarella the wine was long, very pleasant and almost chewy. This was a much better match than with an upscale French Chateauneuf du Pape at about three times the price. In the presence of a yellow Cheddar the wine was long, deep, and full of dark fruits. This is a good cheese wine; if you relish that sort of thing.

Final verdict. I was somewhat surprised. I really expected this wine to go better with beef than with chicken. At the price, you can play around with the food pairings to see what you like. I might buy this wine again, but only when I'm looking for a seven-dollar wine. I've got an inexpensive Chilean white wine that I'll be tasting shortly.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but would rather just drink fine German or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches various computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Check out his global wine website http://www.theworldwidewine.com with a weekly column reviewing $10 wines and new sections writing about (theory) and tasting (practice) organic and kosher wines.