Lush, rich Catena Alta Malbec, showcasing notes of blueberry and baking spices, graced with silky tannins and notes of dried herbs on the lingering finish.
As roasting and braising season is drawing to a close, and grilling season is fast approaching, the versatility of Argentina's most famous grape, Malbec, becomes ever apparent. As a wine professional, I am frequently asked questions, such as, "I like Cabernet, and they like Pinot Noir. Is there a wine we can all agree upon?" or, "I want a bold red that's not too dry. What do you suggest?" Very often, the answer to both of those questions is Argentine Malbec.
Malbec's birthplace is Bordeaux, France, but it is in the arid, high elevation desert of the Mendoza region in Argentina, where a more modern, approachable, less rustic style of Malbec gained popularity. Though the Malbec craze of ten years ago has leveled off, many of the inexpensive bottles of Malbec we fell in love with back then are still available. Happily though, in the past decades, the winemakers of Argentina have not been resting on their laurels and have continued their work to take this wine to the next level, and a new tier of expressive, quality-driven serious Malbec has arisen.
- Value - Although there are many inexpensive Malbecs, value can mean more than just a cheap price tag. What Malbec delivers is a value across a broad range of prices, offering "bang for your buck" at virtually any tier. If you think about the fact that vineyard land in Napa Valley can cost up to 50 times more per acre, it is easy to see that value starts on the ground level.
A classic pairing: Argentine Malbec with chimichurri and beef
- Versatility - Argentine Malbec has a rich, fruity profile and a luscious mouth-feel, combined with medium levels of both tannin and acidity. These characteristics make Malbec a perfect solution when choosing wine for a group with diverse tastes. A perfect complement to anything grilled, braised, or roasted, Malbec is also approachable enough to simply sip on its own or even pair with chocolate.
5 Recipes from the Kitchn to Pair with Argentine Malbec
- QUALITY - Although wine has been made in Argentina for hundreds of years, the movement toward quality, world-class wine is relatively recent. New developments in irrigation, better clonal selection, detailed geological surveys, and modern winemaking facilities, combined with the natural elements of intense sunlight, well-drained soil, low humidity, and dramatic temperature shifts, have all contributed to marked increases in consistency and quality.
This Week's Malbec Picks
- Don Miguel Gascon, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2012, $12
- Renacer, Punto Final, Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, Argentina, 2011, $18
- Durigutti, Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, Argentina, 2010, $24
- El Enemigo, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2009, $28
- Catena Alta, Historic Rows, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, 2010, $45
The lineup: Durigutti, El Enemigo, Catena Alta, Punto Final, Gascon
Aside from the unsightly side effect of purple-stained teeth, what aspects of Malbec do you find enjoyable, and which producers are on the top of your list? Have you ever tried a high quality Malbec? Is there a specific subregion of Mendoza that you think produces superior Malbec?
More on Argentine Malbec from The Kitchn
(Image credits: Jayme Henderson; Sara Kate Gillingham)