Tasting Group: Malbec from Anywhere



By Kori ~ June 29th, 2011.

Since we live in Washington State and often drink wines from Washington State, we want to make sure that we continue to hone our knowledge of the entire world of wine and maintain well-rounded palates in order to make us even more objective when we evaluate wines from Washington State. Therefore, we are thoroughly enjoying our Wine Peeps Tasting Group which includes what we think is an excellent peer group of knowledgeable wine lovers to taste, share, and learn more about wine together. Unlike our monthly wine tasting dinners in which the guests rotate, this tasting group includes people who are committed to getting together once a month which we believe benefits all of us. In addition to trying varieties and regions that we do not taste frequently, the other main difference between this group and our wine tasting dinners is that each group member brings a bottle consistent with the month’s theme so no one knows all the wines in the blind tasting.

Last week, we met and explored Malbec. Unlike the majority of our previous tasting group meetings, which have focused on a particular varietal from a specific region, this tasting simply focused on the varietal and each group member was free to bring a bottle of Malbec from any region in the world. The only requirement was that it was either varietally-labeled as Malbec (or a Malbec synonym such as Côt, Auxerrois, or Pressac) or, for countries that do not varietally-label, it must contain at least 75% Malbec. Malbec was originally one of the six varieties used in red Bordeaux blends along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and occasionally Carmenère. Today, it is only used sparingly in Bordeaux, and the majority of Malbec plantings in the country are found in the Cahors region in southwest France. In recent years, Malbec has become a celebrated varietal wine in Argentina. More and more Malbec continues to be planted in the United States as well. In my opinion, Washington State is producing some excellent Malbec. In general, Malbec is not as tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon but is spicier than Merlot and goes well with a number of different foods.

We tasted eight bottles of Malbec from around the world. Unfortunately, of those eight wines, two bottles (one from Cahors in France and one from Washington State) were corked so we did not include them in the rankings. The remaining six wines included three from Argentina and three from Washington State. The consensus favorite was the 2009 Archaval Ferrer Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina.

I was pleased to see how favorably the Washington wines performed against their peers from Argentina. The three wines from Washington State finished second, fourth, and sixth in the group consensus rankings. However, the Argentine wines all fared better than the Washington wines in the QPR department.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

2009 Archaval Ferrer Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina): Deep purple in color. Very aromatic with blackberry and floral notes as well as a hint of tire rubber on the nose. Blackberry, cinnamon, black pepper, and plum come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity and silky tannins. Well-balanced with good mouthfeel and a very long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Compass Wines (Anacortes, Washington), $13; Available elsewhere, $16 to $31

2008 Alexandria Nicole Cellars Malbec (Block 20, Destiny Ridge Vineyards, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington): 96% Malbec and 4% Merlot. Deep, purplish red. Nice nose with chocolate, pencil lead, and black fruit aromas. Flavors of blackberry, plum, pomegranate, and spice. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and medium to high, dusty tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $38

2008 Bodega Catena Zapata ‘Catena Malbec’ (Mendoza, Argentina): Deep purple in color. Aromatic with black fruits, vanilla cream, and sugar on the nose. More black fruits, vanilla, and spice on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium to high tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $20.49; Available elsewhere, $14 to $20

2008 Almquist Malbec (Northridge Vineyard, Wahluke Slope, Washington): Dark purple. Nice nose with blackberry, black cherry, and spice aromas. Very fruit forward with blackberry, black cherry, and a hint of chocolate on the palate. Medium-bodied with lively acidity, soft tannins, and a medium finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: McCarthy & Schiering (Seattle, Washington), $25; Available elsewhere, $27

2008 Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina): Medium-deep purplish red in color. Aromatic with black fruit, spice, earth, and a hint of barnyard on the nose. More black fruit, plum, licorice, and faint vegetal notes come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, medium tannins, and a medium to long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $8.79; Available elsewhere, $9 to $14

2008 Fidelitas Malbec (Columbia Valley, Washington): Deep purple in color. Nose is a bit tight at first and then some spice notes come through. Very jammy with blackberry and spice on the palate. Medium to full-bodied and lively with medium tannins and a medium finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $35; Available elsewhere, $34


Filed under: American Wine, Argentine Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Malbec, Tasting Group, Washington State Wine, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Glenn Coogan | June 29th, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Love for you to try the Columbia Winery Malbec Small Lot……

  2. TheGourmetCoffeeGuy | July 4th, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Sounds like a fun group and a great way for some objective wine tasting!
    Nice to know the Malbec wines from Washington state performed so well although can think of one or two Malbecs from Argentina in the past that were terrific! Enjoyed your post very much.

  3. Kori | July 6th, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Glenn,
    We’d welcome the opportunity to try the Columbia Small Lot Malbec.

    CoffeeGuy,
    As always, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Cheers!

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