Private Tasting: Argentine Malbec

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.

2006 Altas Cumbres MalbecMalbec 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; (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

Reader's Comments

  1. Dan | March 11th, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Can you make any suggestions for a good Washington Malbec Wine under $15?

    Wino Dan,

  2. AWToday 12/03/09 | ArgentineWines.Com | March 12th, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    […] Wine Peeps: A Wine Blog » Private Tasting: Argentine Malbec By Kori An independent wine blog dedicated to helping you get the most bang for your buck in wine. We do this through blind tastings of wine from around the world and calculations of QPRs. Because we are located in Seattle, Washington, … Wine Peeps – […]

  3. Kori | March 13th, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Our December wine tasting dinner featured Washington Malbec. Check out my recap post for a list of the six WA Malbecs we tasted:
    As you’ll see, only the Sagelands Malbec is under $15. Most WA Malbecs are in the $20-$30 range.

  4. mike beltran | May 1st, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Just returned from Argentina and Mendoza area. My question is why look locally when great Malbec comes from South America. The wineries are as modern and well run and are able to spend $$ on French Oak. The last 20 years have seen foreign capital and knowledge bring a sleeping giant to its feet. The people and vineyards are still back in the 40’s with respect to labor and lifestyle, which keeps the cost of production cheap. Cesar Chavez would go crazy with the price pickers are paid. it is an agriculture based society and life is much less complicated. People live on less and things have not changed in many years. Million dollar wineries make great wine and the potential has not even been touched as to what can be done in this area. Smart buyers will get these wines while they are such a good deal. The rest of the world will catch up and the prices will rise.
    Drink well and drink often….. Mike B.

  5. Kori | May 6th, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. While I certainly agree that Argentina is making outstanding Malbec and selling it at great prices for the consumer, I always want to encourage wine lovers to try lots of different wines from different areas and to support their local producers. Personally, I am very excited about the quality Malbec that is being produced in Washington State right now. Cheers!

  6. malbec wine | November 29th, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    The concept was really good to read on this web site..thanks for your post..nice articles.

  7. Amanda | February 4th, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I need a good malbec for a wine tasting contest. Which is the best? Not looking to spend over $50

  8. Kori | February 15th, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Please visit our Malbec category,, which lists 41 posts in which we have discussed and/or rated Malbec. Hope you find it helpful. Cheers!