Malbec is emblematic of Argentina.
Every wine region has its own, ‘signature’ wine or style, blend or variety. The Germans remain Riesling champions of the world. Italy’s Veneto lays claim to the uniqueness of apassimento and Amarone. The Chileans still care about Carmenere (though less so, perhaps, these days). And the French have a lock down on Champagne, no matter how many imitations pop up.
It’s hard to argue with Argentina’s unqualified success Malbec. The country has almost 40,000 hectares of the variety planted. About 86 percent is in Mendoza.
The variety offers everything people say they want in a red grape. Made well, it’s soft, supple, approachable, layered, quite complex and well reflects its terroir. In blends—in concert with others—it can shine.
Malbec World Day rolls around this year on April 17th. In anticipation I’ve spent the last few days exploring more Malbec than I taste in a year. One sure way to get a good snapshot of what’s out there.
In Malbec, Argentina truly does has something for everyone.
If you’re someone who shops on a budget you’ll know there are abundant choices and styles. Varying degrees of oak from subtle to sledgehammer—often well under the $20 sweet spot.
Yet, dig just a little deeper and you’ll be well rewarded.
Malbec is no longer the homogenous entity it once was. Argentina has been working hard on new plantings, especially at higher elevations. So much so that many producers now state on the label the height of the vineyards in metres. The impact of these higher plantings is significant. Higher elevations translate into bigger diurnals. The wider difference between warm days and cool nights translates into more acidity and structure.
These are my top scoring and best value wines of the week.
Bodega Argento Organic Malbec Reserva 2014
(Uco Valley, 1,090 m.) The purest expression of the variety, aromas of black and blue fruit. On the palate, cassis, blackberry, hints of spice, a little minerality. Seamless tannins and measured French oak through a lengthy end. 92 pts. Alberto Antonini consults. Why am I not surprised? $25-$27 at private wine stores, including Dollarton, The Gull and online from New District. The ‘Classic’ Argento Malbec ($17-$18) also offers excellent value, 89 pts).
Kaiken Malbec Reserva 2014
From a warmer site at 950 metres. Sustainably produced. Forward cherry and spice notes with a fruit driven palate of red and blue fruit. Good mouthfeel and approachable tannins. Excellent value. $15-$18 Private Stores
Zuccardi Q Malbec 2013 (Uco Valley)
From select old vine parcels. Made in a state of the art winery, built around scores of concrete eggs. Violets and black fruit up front. Blackberry and mulberry on a juicy, well balanced palate with firm tannins and a spicy close. 91 pts. $21.99 BCLS
Finca Decero Remelinos Single Vineyard Malbec 2014 (Mendoza)
Consistently one of the best Malbecs available in the local market, this wine comes from a stunning site at 1,050 m. in the Andean foothills. Luscious black fruit and violet, underpinned by juicy acidity with great length. Integrated tannins from well managed oak, through a plush, lingering finish. Everything Wine. 92 pts. $23.99
Pascual Toso Limited Edition Malbec 2014.
From a long established producer (since 1890) known for value wines. Blackberry and coconut on the nose from predominant American oak. A plush and plummy palate of black fruit and vanilla wrapped in approachable tannins. Good value… 91 pts. BCLS $17.99.
Cuma Organic Malbec 2016
The ‘deal’ of the flight, not complex but well made and certified organic. Lifted red fruit and plummy aromas followed by a fresh, red berry palate. Damson and vanilla, medium bodied with a hint of spice in the finish. Made by major producer Michel Torino. 89 pts. BCLS $12.49
Check with your local store for details of free tastings on Saturday, April 8th, 16th and at other times.