Malbec has become synonymous with Argentina, having arrived in the country nearly 170 years ago. The grape has proven that it thrives in Argentina’s high-elevation, sunny, desert climate. Across the country, winemakers vinify malbec into generously flavoured, full-bodied reds that are broadly appealing.
In fact, malbec represents close to one quarter of Argentina’s total vineyards planted and is the country’s most widely cultivated grape (109,000 acres), which presents the opportunity for a diverse range of styles.
Malbec has become such a global success, it makes up more than half of Argentina’s wine exports and even has its own celebrated day on the calendar – aptly named Malbec World Day – each year on April 17, largely due to Argentina’s influence on the grape.
Rounding up some of the best (recently sampled) valued bottles, ranging from $15 to $25, here’s a list of seven malbecs to put on your shopping list and to have ready for just about any occasion that calls for a bottle of red:
Masi 2019 Tupungato ‘Passo Doble’ Organic
From organically cultivated vineyards in Mendoza and lying at an altitude of 950-1050 metres above-sea-level in the Tupungato valley, comes this Italian-inspired expression from the very well-known Veneto, Italy based Masi brand name. A technique called double fermentation is used – something that has become a Masi speciality – and 15 percent of whole corvina grapes are added to the blend and even given a brief appassimento treatment before pressing. The result is a dark red wine, almost completely opaque, and viscous. There’s ripe fruit on the nose, plums particularly, with a hint of spice. The mouthfeel is full-bodied and rich, with soft tannins and balanced acidity. An excellent pairing for grilled meats. ($15.65)
Trapiche 2018 ‘Medalla’ Malbec
This pours dark red in the glass with a beautiful violet ring on the outer edges. The nose is quite pronounced, with distinct aromas of fig, blackberry, dark cherry and spice. The palate is full and chewy, with loads of black fruit and accented with vanilla, spice and a mineral presence. Tannins are present but are softened and not over-bearing, with just a slight grip. The finish is excellent, with a smoky and sweet tobacco flavour and closing with a mineral cleanse. Fire up the barbecue when planning to open this one. ($19.95)
Pascual Toso 2020 ‘Limited Edition’ Malbec
Established in 1890, Pascual Toso is one of Mendoza’s oldest wineries with more than 400 hectares of vineyards in the Barrancas sub-region of Maipù, located in the heart of Mendoza’s Primera Zona. Bodegas Toso has built a reputation for producing some of the area’s best malbec. Forty percent of the wine is matured in American oak barrels for eight months, imparting structure. The nose is of plums, spice and crushed gravel. Palate flavours feature black fruits and wet stone over a medium body. The finish is minerally and fresh. ($18.45)
Argento 2019 ‘Estate Reserve’ Organic Malbec
Bodega Argento is Argentina’s largest certified organic wine producer with vineyards planted in Mendoza’s most important, traditional winegrowing areas in the Primera Zona (Luján de Cuyo, Maipù) and Uco Valley (Paraje Altamira). Aromas of ripened fruits dazzle the senses, with hints of spice and vanilla. Red fruit flavours abound on the palate, with a plush mouthfeel, gentle tannins and lingering finish. An excellent value option. ($14.95)
Domaine Bousquet 2018 Gran Malbec
Third generation French winemaker Jean Bousquet founded Domaine Bousquet (now managed by his daughter and son-in-law) in the Tupungato district of Uco Valley in 1990. At the time, it was virgin territory – nothing planted, no access to water above ground, nor electricity – and many felt it was too cold for growing grapes. Farmed organically since 2001, Domaine Bousquet is now Argentina’s leading exporter of organic wines, exporting to more than 50 countries. This wine is a blend, consisting of 85 percent malbec and equal parts cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah making up the balance. There’s good structure here, with intense, full bodied flavours of blackberry, fig and spice, with some dark chocolate notes coming through on the finish. ($24.95)
Don Nicanor 2018 ‘Nieto Senetiner’ Malbec
Established in 1888, Nieto Senetiner was founded by Don Nicanor whose three estate vineyards are located in the sub-zones of Agrelo, Alto Agrelo and Vistalba. Its original Vistalba estate vineyard, Finca Villa Blanca, is home to vines planted in 1900. This particular malbec was aged 12 months in French oak and is therefore soft and round on the palate. Flavours are rich, with an assortment of ripened fruit and spices all held together nicely with balanced acidity and velvety smooth tannins. A heavier wine to pair with rich cheeses or full-flavoured dishes (lamb, lasagna, ribeye steak). ($16.95)
Terrazas de los Andes 2018 ‘Reserva’ Malbec
Terrazas de los Andes is a Mendoza project owned by luxury brand LVMH with vineyards located throughout premium areas in Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. Its northernmost and southernmost parcels are 925 km apart, offering a diverse selection of grapes for the winery’s portfolio. This malbec opens up with pronounced aromas of violet, cherry and plum. The palate is textured and complex, with black fruit over a full body that’s underpinned by sweet tannins and a juicy fresh mid-palate that extends to the finish. ($19.95)