By W. Peter Hoyne
Malbec started as a novelty and has expanded into a trendy obsession among wine consumers, who decided to embrace a grape that was relatively obscure in the United States. This fashionable varietal has its origins in the Southwest French region of Cohors and as a blending grape in Bordeaux. In the late 1800s Frenchman Michel Pouget introduced it to Argentina. Within the last decade it has come of age, recreating itself at higher altitudes in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Argentina. While 75 percent of the wine produced in Argentina derives from the city of Mendoza, it is the diverse and complex style of Malbec that has brought this wine international prominence. Mass produced, young vine styles can be forward and attractive while old-vine Malbec grown at high altitudes can bring limitless enjoyment at an affordable price, while providing a lengthy intellectual exercise of flavor profiles.
2007 Terrazaz Malbec
In the 1950s Moet & Chanon sent its director of oenology to the southern hemisphere to research new wine growing regions. Upon his return, Renaud Poirier chose the high altitudes of Lujan de Cuyo, in Mendoza, for his new plantings. After several decades of diligent efforts with sparking wine production, Moet Hennessy and its subsidiary Bodegas Chandon Argentina decided to open a still wine facility named Terrazas de los Andes Winery. Today, his winery offers several tiers of notable Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is their introductory level of Malbec which is definitely a New World format offering savory flavors of wild cherry, cinnamon and hints of cream integrated into a velvety package. | About $11
2006 Bodega Catena Malbec
In 1898 Nicola Catena traveled from Italy to Argentina in search of fertile land for planting vineyards. Realizing the potential of a grape that had only been grown in Bordeaux, France, Catena planted his first Malbec vineyard in 1902. His grandson Nicolas, emboldened with the same passion as his grandfather, elevated the status and recognition of the winery while introducing Catena Malbec, made from the 60-year-old Angelica vineyard, in 1994. The style of Catena Malbec, although Old World in its expression, has been the model for many wineries in Argentina. This opaque Malbec displays certain finesse and is infused with provincial herbs, hints of smoked meat and scorched earth. A classically crafted wine that underscores why Malbec pairs well with the cuisine of Argentina and grilled meats. | About $23
2006 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec
Facing the gentle slopes of the Andes Mountains in the town of Lujan de Cuyo, these young vineyards were planted between 1996 and 1999. This reserve offering is a stunning Malbec showcasing an ink-colored concentration. Enormous, powerful and masculine in its approach with undertones of black raspberry liqueur, white pepper and dark espresso roast. This wine is destined for long-term ageability. | About $33
2008 Gascon Malbec
This project was led by investors from the Catena family and became an instant hit from its first release. The straightforward, surprisingly affordable fruit-laden gem maintains a consistent contour of ripe red plum and cherry jelly flavors. Approachable with a supple mouth-feel that is never tiring. | About $11
W. Peter Hoyne has been a wine journalist for over 20 years, covering stories of national and international significance. While his professional relationships in the wine industry have allowed him to share a unique perspective of wine, he is also intrigued by the culinary aspect and harmony that exist between wine and food. As a wine advocate, he is committed to consumer education and is focused on upcoming trends and American wine-buying habits.