A couple months ago, I offered a short feature on topnotch Argentine malbecs priced no higher than $15. I had planned all along to provide a second feature on the best of Argentina’s spare-no-expense icon malbec bottlings, which deliver enough glossy dark fruits, voluptuous texture and depth to put many pricey Napa cabernets to shame. The problem is that these wines can set you back $75 or $100, or even more.
But for a tiny fraction of that price (i.e., $16 to $25), here are a number of distinctive malbecs that merited scores of 90 or 91 points in my annual coverage of Argentina in Issue 161 of the International Wine Cellar. While these wines are not dirt-cheap, they still rank as Screaming Values in my book. I still remember the days when Australia could offer a similar level of quality in cabernet and syrah in the same price range, but that was when the Australian dollar was far weaker.
Hector Durigutti is one of Argentina’s top enologists and his wines have done consistently well in my tastings in recent years. One of the best of them is the Durigutti 2008 Malbec Reserva Mendoza ($25; Southern Wine Group), which leads off with pure, discreet aromas of black fruits and flowers. This classy malbec enters the mouth with silky sweetness, then shows terrific mid-palate depth and definition of dark berry flavor. A wine of impeccable balance, it finishes with excellent energy and subtle building length, with suave tannins in the background.
Durigutti is also responsible for making the wines of Bodega Lamadrid, whose 2010 Malbec Single Vineyard Reserve Mendoza ($20; Vino del Sol) offer vibrant, spicy aromas and flavors of crushed blackberry, violet, licorice and bitter chocolate. This suave, fine-grained malbec delivers excellent concentration and a light touch, with the rising finish conveying a strong impression of energy. This classic, nicely perfumed malbec should age nicely.
It’s hard to go wrong with the sexy wines of Nicolas Catena. His Bodega Catena Zapata 2009 Malbec Mendoza ($24; Winebow) displays aromas and flavors of red and darker berries, licorice, violet and pepper complicated by game, and delivers a wonderfully creamy palate feel. The wine’s thickness is perfectly leavened by fresh acidity and the finish is suavely tannic and long.
Viña Alicia is another of my perennial favorite producers in Argentina. Their 2009 Malbec Paso de Piedre Lujá de Cuyo ($19; Southern Starz) exudes perfumed scents of cassis, bitter chocolate, violet, tobacco and minerals. This juicy, spicy, savory malbec boasts a seamless texture and complex, lightly saline soil tones. As with virtually all of these wine, its tannins are extremely smooth.
Superconsultant Michel Rolland is responsible for the consistently rich and satisfying Clos de los Siete Mendoza. The 2009 bottling ($19; Dourthe USA), which is actually 57% malbec blended with merlot, cabernet, syrah and petit verdot, shows a liqueur-like ripeness to its aromas of blackberry, game, chocolate and smoky oak. It’s densely packed and very smooth, showing surprising violet lift to its intense black fruit flavors. As always, this bottling is a terrific value.
Finally, the Tikal 2010 Natural Malbec Mendoza ($20; Vine Connections), made from organically farmed grapes, conveys complex aromas of blackberry, blueberry, violet and chocolatey oak. On the palate it’s rich but nicely juicy, with harmonious acidity framing the dark berry, cherry, licorice and saline flavors and leavening the variety’s sweetness. Its chewy, ripe tannins and persistent soil tones suggest that it will age well.