Argentinian malbec might enjoy a certain reputation abroad for value-priced, burly reds to pour alongside beef. And while the region does offer plenty of bang for your bovine buck, winemakers continue to explore and identify the distinctive Andean terroirs. Here are two recommendations from the same wineries or made by the same winemaker, one priced for a weekday dinner and another that offers a more detailed picture of Mendoza.
2014 Valle de Uco One Single Vineyard Doña Angeles Malbec
92 | $60
Don’t let the initial buttery-rich impression of this wine fool you—there’s plenty of fresh, bright red fruit behind it, and a spice-drawer complexity that plays around the through line of acidity. This 2014 is a current release, and has enough freshness to carry it easily another seven years.
2018 Mendoza Aduentus Malbec
90 | $25
Grippy, button-mushroom and thyme-stem scents add interest to the blackberry core of flavor. The 14 months of oak aging have closed off the fresher, redder aspects of the wine, but a day of air reveals those crisper contours.
Imported by Cork Alliance, Doral, FL
2019 Mendoza Single Vineyard Finca Altamira Malbec
95 | $40
From the organically farmed Altamira estate vineyard, planted at 3,609 feet above sea level, this wine ferments in stainless steel and ages for 10 months mostly in 5,000-liter foudres, with 25 percent aging in concrete. It’s aromatic malbec, bursting with florals and crunchy plum flavors while retaining a certain desert coolness.
2019 Mendoza Estate Reserve Malbec (Best Buy)
89 | $16
After three months in French oak, this wine picked up light coffee notes to frame the spicy violet and ripe, juicy blueberry fruit. A classic example of malbec, this suggests why the variety took off in Mendoza.
Imported by Pacific Highway, Greensboro, NC
2019 Mendoza Argentino Malbec
94 | $120
Winemaking Director Alejandro Vigil blends this wine from a mass selection of malbec in Catena’s Nicasia vineyard (planted in 1996 in La Consulta, 3,593 feet above sea level) and Angélica (planted around 1930 in Lunlunta, 3,018 feet above sea level). The wine is big enough to carry the dark chocolate flavors from its time in oak, the fruit going towards black raspberry layered with blueberry complexity. Some air points up the freshness of the wine, hinting at years of development ahead in the cellar.
2019 Lunlunta Malbec
92 | $25
This malbec has a soft minerality, as if to reflect the silty clay soils of Catena’s Lunlunta vineyards. The juice macerates on the skins for ten days after fermentation, giving the wine a chewy cherry skin character. It’s almost pop-art in its intensity, with the contrast cranked up.
Imported by Winebow, NY
2020 Mendoza Perro Callejero Malbec
92 | $22
José Millan blends this malbec from three vineyards, half of the grapes from Perdriel and the remainder from higher-elevation sites in the Uco Valley. Floral notes add detail to the wine’s espresso bass lines, and it holds the layers of ripe blackberry and dark chocolate well through the finish. A fresh, modern style.
2020 Mendoza Cordero con Piel de Lobo Malbec (Best Buy)
90 | $17
Cocoa-nib tannins hint at the complexity to come in this floral, high-octane wine. It’s chasing vibrance, but is youthfully tannic. Enjoy the lean blackberry and crunchy blueberry fruit alongside carne asada tacos.
Imported by Vinamericas, Miami, FL
This grows in El Cepillo, from a vineyard planted in well-draining sandy loam soil. The Andean shift from warm days to cool nights seems to shine through in the wine itself, finding a balance between its weight and the brightness of its fruit. Enriched by its time in French oak barrels (50 percent new), it retains enough freshness to feel plush rather than tiring. The wine glides to a pretty finish, with coffee and chocolate notes.
Most of the grapes in this wine come from vineyards in Gualtallary at 4,430 feet in elevation. Cool raspberry flavors and a savory smokiness knit the wine together and, though it doesn’t offer much for complexity, it feels sure of itself, simple and delicious. It’s lifted and bright, a wine to enjoy with duck breast, seared rare.
Imported by Prestige Beverage Group, Mendota Heights, MN
92 | $33
This wine, blended from vineyards around Paraje Altamira, spends a year in French and American oak (70/30, half of the barrels new). Aromatically unique, with Sichuan-peppercorn florality and blackberry-liqueur richness, this wine’s alcohol points up the lip-smacking tannins. Pour it next to roast pork belly with cracklings.
91 | $23
Ernesto Catena’s winery and vineyards are part of a larger biodynamic farm in Vista Flores, where Alejandro Kuschnaroff makes the wines. Malbec provides 60 percent of the blend, and you can taste it in the florals while syrah is there in the spice. They come together in the dark fruit flavors and a rich blueberry-leather texture. The wine is powerful enough to go along with dinner, while the finish is delicate enough that you could still be happy standing and sipping a glass.
Imported by Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA
2019 Barrancas Reserva Malbec
93 | $25
This wine makes a grand entrance, bugles and all. The wine spends a year in new oak, (80 percent American) and yet that oak feels judicious, framing blueberry, blackberry and sun-ripened cassis within earthy dark chocolate and spice. For anything hearty, whether that’s Costa Rican casado or salt-and-pepper steak.
2020 Mendoza Toso Estate Malbec (Best Buy)`
89 | $14
There’s something charming about this wine’s rich, silken fruit layered over fresh mint and blackberry flavors.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa, CA
The wines on this page were chosen by our editors, from our tastings for the October 2021 edition. After our editors made their selections, we offered wineries the opportunity to promote their award with a bottle image and brand links.
This story appears in the print issue of October 2021.
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