Monday, March 21, 2011

Top Ten Argentine Malbecs For Under $20

As the weather heats up, most of us dust off the bag of coals in anticipation of the summer grilling season. And Malbec, with the weight and tannins to hold up to and compliment grilled meat, is one of my favorite grill wines. Since it tends to be slightly smoky by nature, it naturally enhances the same smoky characteristics that grilling imparts to a dish. The Malbec grape, native to the Bordeaux region of France where they use it for blending, quickly became Argentina's calling card red varietal, and a number of producers are making outstanding examples.

1. Bodegas Y Vinedos O. Fournier - 'Uco Urban' Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina 2009 - $11
The O. Fournier wine group was founded as recently as 2000. While the group only has their own estate vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina and Ribera del Duero, Spain, they produce wine in Spain, Portugal, Chile, and Argentina. According to Bodegas Y Vinedos O. Fournier, "At the turn of the millennium the Spanish family Ortega Gil-Fournier founded a small 'boutique' winery, at the foot of the Andes, in La Consulta, in the Argentinean province of Mendoza."

This Malbec falls under their Uco Urban line, and is a more fruit-forward style, showcasing flavors and aromas of raspberry and redcurrant followed by stewed blackcurrant and blueberry. The wine is full-bodied with a well-balanced acidity and tannin structure. Pair this juicy red with barbecued lamb or pork and I promise you won't be disappointed.

2. Bodega Renacer - 'Punto Final Classico' Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina 2009 - $12
Bodegas Renacer is located in northern Mendoza in Perdrie, a sub-region of Luján de Cuyo with a great reputation for producing excellent Malbec. Bodega Renacer is a makes great examples of the high quality of the region. They have three Malbecs as well as a Malbec rosé and a Sauvignon Blanc. Their high-end Malbec is the Enamore and regularly receives high accolades from respected trade magazines.

The wine highlighted here is their Punto Final Classico line. This wine is made from Malbec vines that are more than 50 years old. This fruit-forward, medium-plus-bodied red begins with red fruit aromas and flavors of raspberry and cherry followed by loads of dark chocolate and spice. The tannins are supple, making this wine a great partner for roasted or braised meats. If you are looking for an introduction to the great quality Argentina is producing, check out the Renacer's Punto Final Malbec.

3. Bodega Septima - Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina 2009 - $12
Bodegas Septima is owned by the famous Codorniu family of Spain, pioneers in the Spanish Cava industry. The Codorníu Group owns wineries in the Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Priorato and Sant Sadurni D’Anoia regions of Spain, Napa Valley, California in the United States, and Luján de Cuyo and Valle de Uco in Argentina.

Bodega Septima produces a wide range of wines using a number of varieties. This Malbec falls under their varietal line, and is made from 100% Malbec. Like the Punto Final and the Uco Urban, this wine is juicy. It begins with ripe red fruit aromas and flavors of raspberries and fresh cherries, which give way to blackberries, vanilla, and spice. The spice and vanilla are a byproduct of this wine's six months spent aging in American oak barrels. Pair this Argentine treat with pizza, especially with mushrooms and sausage.

4. Finca Sophenia - 'Tupungato Altosur' Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina 2009 - $12
Finca Sophenia was founded by Roberto Luca. Like many wineries around the world, Sophenia employs French winemaker Michel Rolland as consultant. The winery produces three lines: Sophenia Synthesis, Finca Sophenia Reserve, and their Altosur. The Altosur line features quality, concentrated fruit that sees a short aging process with French and American oak barrels. The winery believes that this line is a "true representative of the New World wines."

The Finca Sophenia 'Tupungato Altosur' Malbec is full bodied, with flavors and aromas of reduced plums, blackberries, and raspberries. Behind that you will find an array of spices and flowers. It has a nice grip to it, making it a great partner for meat dishes, especially when seasoned with barbecue sauce.

5. Altos Las Hormigas - Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina 2009 - $13
Altos Las Hormigas was founded in 1995 by an Italian investment group headed by brilliant winemaker Alberto Antonini, a well-known Italian winemaker and former head winemaker at Antinori in Tuscany. Antonini is also a head winemaker at Bodega Renacer, along with several other wineries in Argentina, Chile, and the United States.

The Alto Las Hormigas Malbec is a real treat for the price. It begins with round red fruit characteristics of plum, raspberry, and cherry followed by a hint of vanilla, a product of this wine's three months submerged in French and American oak insertstaves. Try this vibrant red with Mexican beef, lamb, or pork dishes, as well as with spicy grilled sausage.

6. Bodegas Escorihuela - 'Don Miguel Gascon' Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina 2009 - $14
Bodegas Escorihuela Gascon was founded in 1888 by Miguel Escorihuela Gascon, a Spanish native who emmigrated to Argentina in 1880 at only 19 years of age. For almost a century the Gascon family owned and operated the estate, but in 1993 they sold Bodegas Escorihuela to the Catena family of the widely distributed Bodegas Catena Zapata.

Like the others on this week's list, the Don Miguel Gascon Malbec is jammy, juicy, and fruity. It begins with bright red fruit aromas of raspberry and red currants followed by blackberry, blueberry, and a touch of mocha. Pair this full-bodied red with pasta tossed in a hearty red sauce or a meaty stew.

7. Kaiken - 'Reserve' Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina 2009 - $14
Kaiken was founded in 2001 by Chilean wine producer Montes. Their 2009 'Reserve' Malbec is made primarily of Malbec, with just a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon thrown in for structure. This full-bodied red is complex, with characteristics of blackberries, black cherries, black currants, vanilla, spice, chocolate, violets, and the list goes on. The tannins are firm, yet well-balanced. Try this outstanding Argentine Malbec with a grilled steak seasoned simply with salt and pepper.

8. Familia Zuccardi - 'Serie A' Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina 2009 - $15
Familia Zuccardi was founded in the 1960's by Alberto Zuccardi. In the 1980's Alberto's son José joined the family business with the vision of producing world-class wines in Argentina. Today the winery is considered one of the most innovative in the country. They own four different projects: Zuccardi, Saint Julia, Fuzion, and Malamado. Under the Familia Zuccardi line they produce a number of labels that range from Viognier to Tempranillo.

The wine featured here falls under the estate's Serie A line. The Familia Zuccardi Serie A Malbec is intense, with concentrated dark fruit flavors and aromas of figs and prunes followed by hints of chocolate and spice. This full-bodied red displays velvety tannins and a well-balanced acidity. Pair this monster with a thick, juicy grilled steak.

9. Argento - 'Reserva' Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina 2009 - $16
Argento, Latin for silver, was established in 1998. According to the producer, the term on the label "relates to the strong silver thread of tradition that runs through the veins of the country and pays homage to Argentina’s long history of crafting precious wines." The wine highlighted here comes from their reserva tier.

The Argento 'Reserva' Malbec is loaded with black fruit flavors and aromas of blackberry, black cherry, and figs, complimented by fresh flower aromas and cloves. The tannins are apparent but not overwhelming. Pair this muscular red with grilled meats or a hearty chili dish.

10. Vina Dona Paula - Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina 2009 - $17
Vina Dona Paula was founded in 1997 by The Claro Group, a Chilean based wine investment company whose portfolio includes producers like Los Vascos and Vina Santa Rita. Vina Dona Paula consists of five distinctly different lines, with Los Cardos representing the entry level. Retailing for only $10, Dona Paula's Los Cardos Malbec received an 86-point rating for their 2008 vintage, solidifying a spot on Wine Spectator's 'Best Value' list.

The Vina Dona Paula Estate Malbec showcases flavors and aromas of raspberry, boysenberry, licorice, dried herbs and spices. The palate is well-balanced, and showcases both depth and complexity. Try this wine with a grilled steak topped with a fresh berry and red wine reduction.

Between Malbec's popularity, both in Argentina and the US, and the number of high-quality producers in Argentina increasing annually, there is a good chance this list will change from vintage to vintage.

If there's a value-packed Argentine Malbec on your list that you think should've made mine, I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment here, find me on Facebook, or shoot me an email. For more information about me, more fun and interesting wine information, and for delicious food and wine pairings, check us out online at Cru Wine Online. Our very own chefs from across the country have created original recipes just for you, and each day we pair them with the perfect wine and a little humor to bring you an entertaining video short.

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Nicholas Barth
Certified Sommelier
Wine Director

1 comment:

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