It’s incredible that Mendoza, a province where Argentina’s most impressive wines are produced, is the size of New York state. More than 35 million acres are under vine, a total representing just 5 percent of the area’s total land mass.
The top vineyards are located in Argentina’s central zone at elevations of 4,000 to 5,000 feet in the Andes Mountains. They slope eastward along flat ridges, the terrain offering good drainage from melting snowcaps and rain.
Big, bold, tannic reds — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Bonarda — flourish in premier Lujon de Cuyo and Uco Valley vineyards.
Today, I’m focusing on Malbec, which is Argentina’s most distinctive and important red varietal. While native to Cahors, France, where it is known as cot, Malbec has thrived in Argentina since first introduced by emigrating Europeans in the 1820s.
Despite nearly two centuries of growth in the Americas, Malbec’s fame didn’t reach its peak until the 1960s. That’s when an influx of modern winemakers and innovative techniques took hold. Today, Argentina is the world’s fifth-leading wine producer, with Malbec topping its export list.
Here are three Malbecs for your consideration.
- Trivento Malbec Select Mendoza, $11.99 — This is a step up from Trivento’s basic Malbec, an easy-drinking version selling for $9.99. Grapes are sourced from top Cuyo vineyards, and it’s aromatic and flavorful. The characteristic, dark-violet Malbec color stands out against a smooth, warm-finishing wine. A good buy indeed.
- Catena Malbec, Mendoza, $18.99 — Bodegas Catena Zapata is well-respected in Argentina and the globe for turning out quality wines at every price point. This one is an annual high-achiever, delivering powerful dark fruit traits and savory spices. For the money, this captures Malbec’s velvety texture and elegance. It mixes lovely blueberry, blackberry, mocha and cinnamon-bun flavors. While this wine is primed for a juicy rib-eye, one pairing expert said it’s a hit with pink salmon. Worth a try.
- Viña Cobos Malbec Bramare Chañares Vineyard, Mendoza, $29 — The great California winemaker Paul Hobbs is behind the Viña Cobos operation, and that in itself is a guarantee of Bramare’s exquisite quality. The name means “to long for, to look forward to,” and this wine mesmerizes from the outset: Deep, dark-violet color and aromatic scents of black cherry and lavender lead into complex layers of sweet and dried black fruit. The finish is silky smooth (aged 18 months in French oak) and persistent. This wine sells online for $45 but is available at the above discounted price at the Wine ConneXtion in North Andover. CellarTracker gives it 92 points. It’s a beauty.