When it comes to Malbec, don’t cry for Argentina – just cheer on all the country’s winemakers who keep turning out delicious wines from this most versatile grape.
World Malbec Day falls on Monday, April 17 – the same day as Massachusetts residents celebrate Patriots Day with Revolutionary War re-enactments and running of the Boston Marathon.
Is there a connection? No, not really.
On April 17, 1868, French agronomist Miguel Pouget, hired by government officials, arrived in Argentina to work on a plan to improve the country’s wine industry. One of the first things Pouget did was to introduce grape growers to Malbec, a red varietal that worked wonders in the small French town of Cahors.
Malbec took to Argentina’s terroir – higher elevations, sunny mountain exposures, abundant water supply from mountain snowmelt, and diurnal temperatures – like Larry Bird took to basketball.
Today, 75 percent of the world’s Malbec plantings (based on acreage) are located in Argentina, where it is the No. 1 wine produced.
In a recent Grapefully Yours Wine Show podcast, I covered the rise of Malbec with co-host Mike Pigeon, aka The Wine Butler. Click on the link below to watch the 25-minute show.
Some of the world’s best Malbec is produced in the Mendoza region, in both the foothills and elevated vineyards of the Andes Mountain range that rise to nearly 7,500 feet above sea level.
They are expressive wines, exhibiting fruity and floral aromatics, dark purple color with violent hues, and bright, raspberry, blackberry, and plum flavors that can pick up secondary traits of tobacco, chocolate, raisin, licorice, pepper, and wild herbs. Malbec delivers a full-bodied profile in most instances with medium acidity and tannins.
It’s an easy drinking wine and very affordable from a taste and quality standpoint. Most Malbecs deliver good value in the $10 to $15 range, yet for a few dollars more -$15 to $25 – the wines are absolutely outstanding when compared to other premium red wines from around the world.
Here are some Malbecs we discussed on the show. They represent solid values for the price.
Bodega Trivento Malbec Reserve 2021, Mendoza, $12 – This uplifting Malbec is a vegan-certified wine produced by Argentina’s leading sustainable farming winery and No. 1 Malbec exporter. While considered Trivento’s entry-level Malbec, the first sip of this wine makes it clear that quality is the primary focus, because it punches well above its weight. There’s richness through and through, starting with dark cherry and floral aromatics that appease the senses and lead to a plush, elegant palate full of fresh raspberry and jammy blackberry tastes.
Winemaker Maximilliano “Maxi” Ortiz is a Malbec master and oversees Trivento’s portfolio using fruit sourced from 10 winery-owned estates in the Uco Valley and Lujan de Cuyo. Its Trivento Malbec Eolo, launched in 2005, is considered one of Argentine’s finest wines and fetches up to $100 a bottle.
However, Trivento’s Golden Reserve Malbec 2021, which sells for $19.99 a bottle, is a good step up the quality ladder for those who want a premium wine at an affordable price. It’s more complex than the entry-level version, as strawberry and raspberry flavors mesh delightfully with a touch of vanilla, licorice and lavendar.
Winemaker Ortiz places 20 percent of the stainless steel-fermented wine in French and American oak for six months to soften tannins and extract extra flavor. It makes Trivento Golden Reserve stand out for its silky texture and long, fruit-inspired finish.
Bodega Amalaya Malbec 2021, Salta, $15.99 – From Cafayate in northwest Argentina, Amalaya Malbec is fermented in concrete vessels to ensure freshness and purity of expression. Vineyards are located at some of the highest sites in the world in the Andes Mountain range. Grapes are 100 percent estate grown. The wine’s color is violet – think of what it would be like looking into Elizabeth Taylor’s gorgeous eyes – and its red fruit flavors get a nice kick of black pepper and vanilla on a smooth finish.
Alamos Malbec 2021, Mendoza, $10.99 – The family-run winery’s been turning out decent Malbecs for more than a century, and winemaker Lucia Vaieretti is one of the best in today’s business for creating harmonious wines. Great flavors are produced in this easy-drinking red. For a bit more jammy taste, try Alamos Selection Malbec ($16.99).
Ben Marco Malbec, Uco Valley, $17.99 – Winemaker Susan Balbo likes to pack a wallop into her wines and this Malbec is a stud for the price. It’s powerful and full-bodied on every level yet it maintains a soft, plush mouthfeel from sip to stern. The color is inky purple.
Don Miguel Gascon Malbec, Mendoza, $13.99 – Another expressive Malbec with dark features throughout, from its color (midnight purple) to impressive fruit (blackberry, plum). Winemaker Matias Ciciani brings out the round, rich flavors of Malbec with a spicy intensity. For a few dollars more, try Gascon Reserva Malbec ($24.99) for a deeper, fuller Malbec that delivers licorice and chocolate notes on a plush frame.
Bodega Catena Zapata La Consulta Malbec, Mendoza, $22.99 – I haven’t tasted this Malbec yet, but my colleagues rave about its clean, concentrated and complex spicy flavors to go along with a pillowy texture. Nicola Catena, an Italian immigrant, launched the winery in 1902 and the family’s fourth generation continues to crank out excellent wines.