I love malbec. The best are sensual, sexy, full-bodied red wines that, at a price range between $7.99 – $11.99, are a great bargain.
It’s sort of an immigrant grape. One of the up to six grapes used in Bordeaux wines, it rarely took center stage except in other more “rustic” regions like Cahors. (One example is the really excellent Clos La Coutale from Cahors, which is a bit southeast of Bordeaux. The Clos La Coutale is 70% malbec, 15% merlot, and 15% tannat. This Kermit Lynch selection has the finesse and grace of a fine merlot but the suppleness of a Argentine malbec.) It took the importation of this grape to the New World in the mid-1800s to give malbec the home it deserved.
The growing conditions in South America–especially Argentina–were ideal for malbec, which requires more sun and heat than cabernet and merlot (its more famous compatriots). This allows for New World wines that are 100% malbec.
My favorite malbec is from Maipe, which is an intense, staining shade of deep purple. It almost pulses with an animal, sensual energy. There are dusty fruit aromas that, upon drinking, fill your mouth with an utterly satisfying, powerful explosion of plum, chocolate, earth. It’s a bronze fist covered with a silk glove. It is delicious by itself, with chocolate, with anything you can throw at it–I wouldn’t, however, pair it with fish or anything too delicate. The Maipe would destroy any gentle partner.
I wrote about the malbec from Bodega Norton in a previous post: it was disappointing. It had a limpid body, it seemed more like a pinot noir than what I had come to expect from a malbec. It was weak, uninspired and uninspiring, especially when compared to the Maipe.
Another disappointing malbec is from Budini: weak, but unlike the Norton not even quaffable. It’s rare for me not to finish a bottle once it’s opened. I threw the Budini away.
I’m drinking a malbec from Altocedro as I type this post: the 2006 Año Cero.
This one has a bit more “heat” than the Maipe, combined with less body. It’s jammy. It’s better in my book than the Norton and the Budini, but nowhere close to the Maipe. This is a shame because I couldn’t find a bottle of Maipe for the past two months! Chris, the proprietor of Mission Wines, informed me that the distributor was all out of the Maipe and that he was waiting for the new vintage to come out. (I’ll be sure to post about that wonderful day when it arrives!)
JOON’S SCALE OF MALBEC DELICIOUSNESS
1) 2006 Maipe Malbec | Mendoza, Argentina | $9.99
2) 2006 Altocedro “Año Cero” Malbec | Mendoza, Argentina | $11.99
3) Bodega Norton Malbec | Mendoza, Argentina | $7.99
4) 2006 Budini Malbec | Mendoza, Argentina | $9.99