Making the Case: Mendoza's Mighty Malbec
I’m continually bombarded by friends, family, and neighbours with requests to recommend a good malbec. Personally, I love the wine, but several years ago, when I was one of the international judges for Argentina’s national wine competition, after 2 weeks in Mendoza, I’d tried by a cautious estimate, nearly 600 examples of malbec. So, from time to time, I still take a break from it.
Did you know that April 17 is both my birthday and Malbec World Day? So I might be having a glass or two if the weather co-operates.
Why does Alberta love malbec so much? I think it’s our love of beef that is nearly as intense as Argentina’s. The asado of Argentina is a bit like Sunday Dinner meets barbecue, meets block party, meets…meat. Whereas here in Alberta, we fire up the gas grill almost every chance we get, and during our relatively short summers, we love to entertain outdoors (more so recently), and malbec is a crowd pleasing wine, that is widely available at a good range of price options. Plus, it’s one of the rare grapes that is easy to pronounce!
Later this month, I’ll also be spending a little time talking about other wines from Argentina, that aren’t malbec. Keep posted.
Note: All these wines were sent to me by Wines of Argentina, though my selections below represent my choices and comments from the pool (literally) of wines forwarded to me.
Bodegas Salentein 2017 Reserve Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
One of my favourite bottles of malbec, vintage after vintage, Salentein has all that great plum fruit, peppery spice, and loads of floral character. On the palate, big, juicy, and spicy too with a very smooth finish to boot. Heck of a buy too. Match with homemade, thick burgers if you can.
CSPC +755804 About $20-24
Flight of the Condor 2019 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Completely new to me, the Flight of the Condor (wasn’t that a Disney movie?) was a little closed off at first in the glass, but soon opened up to a rather plump, fruit driven style of malbec with delicate (relatively) spiciness. Smooth and mellow on the palate, a crowd pleasing style for your next barbecue.
CSPC +836550 $19-22
La Vuelta 2020 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Lovely floral aromas with a subtleness of horsey, farmyard earthiness and densely packed fruits. On the palate, a juicy, well-balanced expression of the grape with a zesty finish and good weight to the tannins. I know several people that would love this one.
CSPC +133454 Around $14-17
Kaiken 2018 Seleccion Especial Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Named for the goose, a Kaiken, that routinely crosses the Andes between Chile and Argentina- reflecting the connection between the Montes family of Chile and Mendoza. Showing excellent value with riper, richer flavours on the palate with perfect tannins balancing the glass. Will be a solid performer around the grill with a nice cheese plate.
CSPC +716767 About $15-18
Doña Paula 2018 Estate Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
I’ve long enjoyed the exceptional value of the Doña Paula wines (though the days of these being under $10 on the shelf are long gone), the estate version (not to be confused with the Los Cardos tier) is a very clean, smooth offering with generous fruits and rather soft tannins. If there was such a thing as a good “afternoon” malbec, this might be it.
CSPC +631291 $19-24
Alamos 2019 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Another well-priced, “workhorse” malbec that checks of all the right boxes, Alamos is justifiably popular around Albertan’s barbecue culture. Dense, plum fruits with a touch of smoke and spice, while on the palate, the addition of a mild grape jelly character brightens things up before the medium-weight tannin on the finish. Sirloin steaks come to mind for a pairing, or really good sausages.
CSPC +467951 About $15-20
Achaval Ferrer 2018 Mendoza, Argentina
One of my favourite wineries to visit, it’s also one of my most-loved malbec producers. Distinctly malbec in character, the nose is buffeted by high tones of intense floral character and pleasing spiciness, while on the palate, the wine is deeply complex and evolving. A little pricier than some, perhaps save it for a nicer steak or the in-laws.
CSPC +851395 About $37-42
Trapiche 2017 Medalla Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
No surprises here, this is a fine example of quality malbec from Trapiche (who make a number of fine blended wines too). A mild jammy quality shows up on the nose evoking plum preserves, but this doesn’t affect the palate which trumpets bright fruits, plenty of spice, and a lovely acidity at the finish. This would work nicely with any meats that have a little fat, or a really nice meaty pizza too!
CSPC +798280 About $22-25
Luigi Bosca 2018 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Another one of the marquee producers in Argentina, I’ve yet to have a wine from the folks at Luigi Bosca that didn’t represent the grape or the blend absolutely perfectly. Rife with black plums and spicy, floral support and a well-balanced palate that has generous fruit and earthy tannins. Can age a little if desired, but showing perfectly now.
CSPC +418038 $24-27
Trivento 2019 Reserve Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
One of the closest things to a “fruit bomb” malbec with rich, jammy fruits, a mild vanilla and creamy oak mouthfeel and a rather easy going personality, this would be a solid, crowd pleasing style of malbec… if we were allowed to have a larger crowd around. I’d easily pair this with ground sirloin burgers…with bacon and cheese too.
CSPC +730714 About $15-18
El Esteco 2019 Don David Reserve Malbec, Calchaqui Valley, Argentina
The only wine here that isn’t from the Mendoza region, the Calchaqui Valley is further to the north and subsequently a little warmer too, though still higher altitudes, and rather arid meaning the wines are naturally a little more intense. A stunner of a wine with super intense floral characters dominating the fruits and making for a polished, spicy, full bodied malbec. Damn good.
CSPC +755882 About $18-22
Vine Cobos 2018 Felino Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
A rather smoky example of malbec, this bottle proudly has a little charred fruit, spice box, and such to support the still generous fruits. On the palate, it’s nicely consistent with the nose, but opens up to a clean and mellow experience. I think it would be a solid pairing with roasts or meats from the smoker, but also a nice board of high quality cheeses and cured meats.
CSPC +723907 Around $23-27