By Kori ~ March 11th, 2009.
If you’ve never tasted Malbec, you are really missing out. Malbec’s ties go back to Bordeaux, France, where it was originally one of the five varieties used in red Bordeaux blends along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Today it is only used sparingly in Bordeaux but has really come into its own as a stand-alone varietal in Argentina. In fact, there is now more Malbec planted in Argentina than anywhere else in the world. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that our own state of Washington is beginning to produce some excellent Malbec as well.
Malbec appeals to a wide variety of wine drinkers. It is not as tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon but is spicier than Merlot and goes well with a number of different foods. In addition to being a very versatile wine, Argentine Malbec in particular delivers serious bang-for-your-buck. One of our wine tasting dinners last summer featured Argentine Malbec. In that tasting, all six wines cost under $20 with the winner coming in under $10. The winner that evening was the 2006 Altas Cumbres.
One day while wine shopping, we came across the 2005 Catena Malbec and decided to buy a bottle to try. So in typical Wine Peeps fashion, we brought it home and sacked it up along with a proven favorite, the 2006 Altas Cumbres, and put them into our private tasting lineup. For a more complete description of how we set up these private tastings, please refer to How We Taste.
At one of our recent private tasting dinners, we had what turned out to be this Argentine Malbec showdown. Both wines were good. In fact, we were split two to two on which one we liked best. And while we did enjoy the Altas Cumbres again, we did not rate this particular bottle quite as high as we had in our dinner last summer. Nevertheless, at $9.99, it is still a great buy! The Catena will set you back a few more dollars but it is very enjoyable as well.
2006 Altas Cumbres Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina): Dark red and very aromatic. Dark fruits, oak, vanilla, and blackberry cobbler come through on the nose. Dark, fresh fruits and honey show through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with medium tannins and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Esquin (Seattle), $9.99; Triphammer Wines (New York), $9.99
2005 Catena Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina): Deep garnet. Aromas of red fruits, cotton candy, and kettle corn along with a little barnyard lead to flavors of extra ripe plums, leather, and Twizzlers. Crisp, medium to full-bodied with medium tannins and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Pete’s Wine Shop – Eastside (Seattle area), $17; Wine.com (California), $16.79
Filed under: Argentine Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Malbec, Red Wine, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25