The last few years have seen an explosion in malbec sales as this once under-appreciated grape has finally found a fan base in the U.S.
Though many wineries have been using this grape more for blending, it shouldn’t be long before you start seeing more and more California malbecs on the shelves. Until then, there is no better spot than Argentina for this grape that thrives in sunny, hot climates.
What once was a popular grape for Bordeaux wines because of its ability to add color to the wines, malbecs started to lose vineyard space as farmers struggled to keep the vines healthy in the temperamental weather of France. Finally, a severe frost in the 1950s sealed its fate as merlot and cabernet franc showed to be more resilient.
Fortunately for us, Argentina has the perfect climate for this grape, and the results are a delicious, rich, dark quaff that begs for red meat.
As with any wine that becomes popular, wineries just like to jump on the bandwagon and rush one out with no concern with quality — so tread cautiously. We suggest pairing this wine with heartier dishes, red meat and barbecue ribs, though a plate of cheese, some crusty bread and olive oil would do just fine also.
The following are some of our favorites that show consistent quality year after year.
REUNION $15 Not just a cute label, this sustainably-farmed, single vineyard estate wine over-delivers on quality. Plush, ripe fruit cascades over the palate with notes of plum, cherry and a kiss of chocolate. This is a wonderfully crafted wine that would pair well with your next family reunion or even just a pizza and a movie.
CRIOS $15 Winemaker Susan Balbo was influential in bringing Argentinian malbec to the world’s attention, making wines in a more fruit-forward style instead of the drier, rustic style that was common at the time. She has since turned the reigns for the Crios line to her son who has carried on her style of winemaking. Crushed black cherries rush over the tongue showing a light touch of caramel on the generous finish.
CATENA $20 The “godfather” of Argentine wines, Nicolas Catena was influential in exposing quality Argentinian to the world. The family winery is more than 100 years old and was known more as a bulk producer until Catena saw the potential to create something special. Packed with jammy notes of cassis, black cherries and blueberries, tobacco and mocha reveal themselves on the long velvety finish.
GASCON $12 Not all wine made in large quantities has to be limp and lifeless. This well-known name still shows the quality of much pricier malbecs. Dark plum and blackberry flavors expand in the mouth before surrendering to a cream-tinged finish. This is a solid wine that’s always easy to find.
MARCHIORI and BARRAUD $20 From 50-year-old vines, the small berries create an incredibly rich and complex wine. Bursting with roasted plum, creamy cassis and cherry reduction notes, those tastes slide effortlessly to a finish caressed with mocha, toasted oak and spice.
ANDELUNA $12 Controversial consultant Michel Rolland has crafted one of the great value malbecs available. Fresh and vibrant with juicy blackberry and crushed currants massaging the taste buds, this wine finishes gracefully with subtle notes of coffee and graham cracker. mc