A Roundup of Marvelous Malbecs

We asked members of our national wine panel to start 2015 by reviewing some of their favorite malbecs. As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s retail price (which varies from store to store and market to market).  If you’re a retail or on-premise beverage professional who would like to learn more about participating in our panel, call Melissa Dowling at 203-855-8499 ext. 223, or email her at MDowling@SpecialtyIM.com.

FIVE STARS        

(98) Altamira Navigato Grand Reserve Malbec 2008 (Argentina). This is one serious malbec. High-altitude fruit from the Uco valley. Old-vine designation utilizing plantings from 1947. An exotic blend of malbec, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc aged 24 months in French oak. Intense purple color, soft aromas of apricot, plum, and bright cherries. Elegant, supple mouthfeel, and a long, smooth finish. ($52)

(97) Saracina Malbec 2011 (California). John Fetzer has been producing great organic wines since the ’80s, now his Saracina winery continues the passion. Vineyard-designated grapes shine in this California interpretation. Rich and full bodied, with soft hints of raisins, plums, coffee and dark chocolate. Soft, supple tannins lead to a long, lingering finish. ($45)

(96) Susana Balbo Malbec 2012 (Argentina). Argentina’s flying winemaker shows her talents with this one. Malbec and 8% cabernet make this a uniquely styled wine. Aromas of violets, black cherries, and plums dominate. Rich and supple, with a strong tannic backbone, this wine finishes with vanilla, tobacco, and dark chocolate flavors. ($37)

(95) Lionel Osmin Cahors 2011. Classic Old-World malbec (100%) from a great producer, the wine is aged 10 months, 25% in oak barrels. The color is deep blue—almost purple. Aromas of black fruits, mocha, and “cigar-box” spiciness lead to bold flavors of blackberry and plum balanced with firm tannins and a hint of lovely terroir. Nice now, it will cellar for several years. ($20)

(95) Chateau Nozieres Ambroise de l’Her Cahors 2010. Ninety percent malbec and 10% merlot aged 14 months in oak barrels. Blue/black in color and viscous in the glass. A bouquet of lilacs and berries leads to lovely flavors of blueberry and spice with a touch of sweet and toasty oak. Tannins are supple with a touch of earthiness on the finish. Very French, very good! ($20)

(95) Lionel Osmin La Reserve Malbec 2011 (France). An excellent example of malbec (100%) from Southwest France, home of the grape’s origins. Aged 10 months, 80% stainless, 20% oak. The wine has a beautiful deep-blue color. Aromas and flavors of berry, black cherry, coffee, and some sweet spice finish with soft tannins and a hint of terroir. This is a great introduction to “old-world” malbec and a terrific value! ($13)

(95) Decero Malbec Remolinos Vineyard-Agrelo 2011 (Argentina). The vineyard is located at 3,500 feet in Mendoza’s sub-region of Agrelo where the grapes are hand picked. The wine, aged in French oak barrels for 14 months, is a superb example of modern Argentine winemaking. A floral nose leads to concentrated flavors of sweet/tart red fruits with nuances of cedar, spice, and vanilla. The tannins are firm and linger with some lip-smacking acidity. Pair this with a good steak! ($23)

(95) Luigi Bosca Malbec 2011 (Argentina). Intense with sweet tannins, ripe red fruits, cassis and black pepper tones. A pure and full-bodied malbec. This bold gem pairs nicely with braised short ribs, stews and game. ($17)

(94) Achavel Ferrer Finca Bella Vista 2010. Move over Bordeaux: This is a keeper! Brooding, dark and powerful, with ripe tannins, elegant minerality and dark chocolate. A fine example of a collectible cellar wine. ($100)

(93) Altamira de los Andes, Reserve Malbec 2009 (Argentina). High-altitude malbec sourced from three of the best growing areas in the Uco valley. Aged 18 months in oak, this wine has beautiful violet color in the glass, with intense aromas of cherry and vanilla and just a hint of dark chocolate. A formidable, classic malbec. ($45)

(93) Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2012 (Argentina). Full, bright ruby red. Porty, yet high-pitched aromas of blackberry, kirsch, blueberry and violet are complicated by balsamic and black olive nuances. Dense, thick and super ripe, but still with noteworthy clarity to its dark fruit and fresh fig flavors. A nutty oak element is leavened by insinuating acidity. The wine ultimately displays a very attractive sugar/acid balance and finishes with good lift. ($31)

(93) Vina Cobos Felino Malbec 2012 (Argentina). This Felino malbec carries a deep magenta hue and aromas of dark berries and anise. On the palate, intense, pure flavors of just-picked raspberries, black plum and graphite unfold in velvety layers. Exotic notes of ginger and white pepper carry through the mid-palate to intermingle with firm tannins and notes of cedar on the finish. ($21)

(92) Vina Solaya Malbec 2013 (Argentina). Dark ruby red, this elegant malbec has aromas of red currants, blackberries and plums, with notes of pepper and clove. Flavors of black cherries and juicy plums fill the mouth with hints of cedar and vanilla on the finish. ($15)

(92) Salentein Numina 2012 (Argentina). A Bordeaux blend from Argentina’s Uco Valley that is 62% malbec, this wine is smooth and elegant, with fine tannins, complex black fruit notes and a long finish that would indicate ageability. ($43)

(92) Mascota Vineyards Malbec ROD (Argentina). A deep, savory malbec with a core of dark plum and spice box; the flavors intermingle effortlessly with just the right amount of oak. The wine finishes with a pleasurable, silky texture. ($14)

(92) Colome Malbec 2012 (Argentina). This is definitely the whole milk of malbec, with some of the highest-elevation fruit on the planet. The grapes have a rich concentration of flavors that show dramatically through every sip. Savor this malbec with a grilled steak or simply after dinner by a fire on a cold winter night. ($28)

(92) Layer Cake Malbec 2012 (Argentina). A classic malbec: Big, brooding, black fruit, then rich earth, truffles and dark cocoa are at the front. The vineyard is at its core, always evident with the thread of minerality that the deep alluvial cobblestones lend. This wine is so elegant in the mouth, with fresh-picked blackberries, hints of chocolate and wisps of smoked bacon. ($17)

(92) Altos Las Hormigas malbec Reserve 2011. Concentrated cassis, peppercorn and blueberry with a touch of mocha on the finish. This malbec’s medium-bodied structure can handle a good steak. ($25)

FOUR STARS     

(91) Nieto Camilla Malbec 2014 (Argentina). This hedonistic-style malbec is fruit-forward with attractive notes of ripe red cherries and cola. Full body, with firm and polished tannins and a long, beautiful finish. An excellent paring with burgers, steak and chicken off the grill. ($15)

(91) Achaval Ferrer Malbec (Argentina). Big, bold and flavorful—the kind of wine that made Argentine malbec so popular. ($30)

(91) Cruz Alta Malbec (Argentina). A malbec crafted from three high-altitude vineyards in the mountains of Mendoza; inky and concentrated with robust flavors of black fruit, cigar box, and chocolate; smooth finish with good length. ($14)

(91) Santa Ana Malbec Reserve (Argentina). Fragrant with aromas of black cherry and lavender; well balanced between the intensity of the plum and cedar flavors and the structured, crisp finish. ($13)

(91) Vistamar Sepia Malbec Reserva (Chile). A lively, ripe malbec with bright flavors of black cherries and hints of espresso bean; spicy tannins and a slightly creamy texture are woven together in a pleasurable finish. ($12)

(91) Delatour Malbec 2012 (France).  Flavor profile of ripe plums, dark cherry fruit and framed with layers of tobacco, coffee and toasty oak. Great with veal, pork and chicken in brown sauces. ($9)    

(91) Catena Malbec 2012 (Argentina). This malbec is rich and silky, with bold, dark fruit. The finish has a hint of leather and dark chocolate with a long, lingering finish. This wine definitely highlights the varietal beauty of malbec. ($23)

(91) Antucura Malbec 2012 (Argentina). A deft French touch on this Argentinean classic. Extended maceration in stainless steel and minimal oak aging (three months), produce a rich, elegant wine with beautiful color enhanced with fruit flavors of plums, blackberries, and bright cherries. Very balanced tannins, hints of spice, and a smooth finish. ($31)

(91) Mapema Malbec 2011 (Argentina). The “Ma” comes from Mariano di Paola, the “pe” comes from the people at the winery, and the “ma” is the magic they create as a team. A 100% high-altitude malbec, aged 12 months in oak. Cherry notes balanced with a hint of peppery spice. Perfect for grilled meats. ($30)

(91) Fabre Montmayou Malbec 2012 (Argentina). All estate-grown fruit from 50-year-old vines in the Cuyo regions produces complex, full-bodied flavors. Light oak aging lets the rich, chewy, fruit shine through. ($28)

(90) Alamos Malbec 2013. A smooth, easy introduction into malbec. Up-front fruit of dark plum and raspberry. Easy tannins on the finish. ($10)

(90) Santa Julia Malbec Reserva 2013 (Argentina). The malbec reserva is a slight step up, which adds 10 months of French oak. Complex and toasty, raspberry and cherry flavors mix with lightly herbal tones on the nose. Full-bodied and slightly tannic, the flavors hold up well to a variety of grilled meats. ($15)

(90) Flichman Lambec Roble (Argentina). A rich and expansive profile that coats the palate; savory aromas and flavors of red fruit, oak, vanilla, and spice. A wine that’s sure to please those who like a ripe yet elegant malbec. ($11)

(90) FLM Malbec Coleccion (Argentina). Round and plush; juicy flavors of plums and blackberries with a touch of coffee; finishes smooth with oak and floral notes. ($12)

(90) Kiwi Cuvee Malbec (France). Wonderfully fragrant and hearty on the palate, the wine possesses aromas and flavors of cherries, baking spices, and minerals. A crisp profile and finish makes this malbec an excellent food-pairing wine. ($11)

(90) Luc Pirlet Malbec (France). Aromas of red fruit and bramble; the palate mimics the nose with additional hints of blueberry and spice. A friendly, approachable malbec with plenty of character. ($12)

(90) Tamari Reserve Malbec 2013. (Argentina). The wine is 100% malbec. Floral notes in the nose followed by flavors of black cherries, plums and a hint of chocolate. Try it with veal piccata. ($13)

(90) Dona Paula Estate Malbec 2012 (Argentina). A rich yet pretty malbec, offering a more-controlled style of this big grape. This wine doesn’t offer any one over-the-top flavor, but rather a smooth and subtle unraveling of flavors from start to finish. ($16)

(89) Colores del Sol 2012. Bright, medium body with inviting aromatics of fresh berries and cassis. A nice everyday sipper. ($8)

(89) Catena Malbec 2012 (Argentina). Deep purple in color. Aroma of dark fruit. Plum and dark cherry flavors. Firm tannins with a long finish. ($20)

(89) Tierra del Sol Malbec 2012 Single Vineyard, La Rioja (Argentina). Blackberry and plum fill the bouquet, lightly framed with mild oak. Medium bodied and smooth, it possesses juicy blackberry and black cherry flavors. Soft tannins keep the wine inviting, and it has the structure and grip to easily handle grilled meats and vegetables. ($12)

(89) La Rousse Malbec 2013 (France). Cot is the French synonym for malbec. More robust and acidic than its South American cousins, it offers more hints of tobacco, earth, and coffee than fruit favors. Heavier in style with rich depth and complexity. ($20)

(89) Domaine La Berangeraie, Cuvee Maurin, Cahors 2010 (France). Cahors is the traditional home to the malbec grape in southwest France. Two generations of the Berenger family produce this wine on their 12-hectare organic estate. All hand pruned, harvested and sorted. Good tannins, tightly wound. Leave it a little time to open up. Velvet in a glass! ($35)

(89) Lyeth L de Lyeth Malbec 2011 (California). Balanced with flavors of blueberries, plums, vanilla and sweet oak. A satisfying finish that allows it to work well with grilled steaks. ($13)

(89) Lunta Malbec 2011 (Argentina). Vines with an average age of 80-plus years lend great complexity to this wine. Very youthful on the nose, with intense aromas of currants, plums, raisins, and a hint of licorice. An elevation of 3,300 feet helps produce wines perfect for beef or lamb dishes. ($30)

(89) Cafetin ‘tos Malbec 2008 (Argentina). This is a nod to the classic coffee bars of Buenos Aires, and the spirit of creativity and independence that typifies their winemaking art. Young vines, aged 12 months in oak yield a softer, easy drinking malbec. Beautiful color, black fruit aromas, and a subtle sense of spice, lead to a smooth finish. Great easy-drinking wine for every day. ($28)

(89) Colome, Malbec 2011 (Argentina). Sourced from some of the highest vineyards in the world, showcasing notes of spicy pepper and purple flowers on a medium bodied frame. ($30)

(89) Clos de Los Siete Malbec blend 2010 (Argentina). A malbec with savory and earthy aromatics, polished texture with a black licorice note to the fine-grained, ripe tannins. ($25)

(88) Tinto Negro Malbec 2013 (Argentina). A best buy, medium-bodied with bright, black fruit notes and surprising flavor for the price. ($10)

(88) Lazos malbec 2013 Mendoza (Argentina). This deep ruby red wine is full of fresh fruit flavors, with raspberry, blueberry and plum, as well as some savory spice accents of cocoa and vanilla. The smooth tannins and lightly toasted oak add dimension, and a hint of truffle lingers in the finish. ($10)

(88) Bodega Norton Malbec Coleccion Varietales 2013 (Argentina). Plenty of plums, strawberries, black fruit and currants. Easy-to-drink and matches well with turkey burgers and veggie-topped pizzas. ($8)

(88) Ben Marco, “Expressivo” Malbec Blend 2011 (Argentina). Aromas of sweet vanilla, cherry liqueur, cedar and toast; mouth-filling flavors mirroring nose, full and round with dusty, woodsy tannins.  $30)

(87) Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2012 (Argentina). Purple in color. Dark fruit plum nose. Plum, cherry, pepper flavors. Moderate tannins. Nice finish. ($13)

(87) Bousquet Malbec 2013 (Argentina). Purple color. Dark fruit, blackberry aroma. Plum, cherry, spice flavors. Moderately firm tannins. Long finish. ($13)

(87) Lariviere Yturbe Malbec 2010 (Argentina). This Franco-Argentinean collaboration is a family affair. Miguel Lariviere and his daughter Leticia run the project. Beautiful spice and fruit notes dominate the nose. Good mouthfeel, supple tannins, with hints of coffee and vanilla on the finish. ($29)

(87) Argentine Revolution Malbec 2012 (Argentina). Beautiful, deep purple color in the glass leads to softer, round tannins, with a touch of dark chocolate on the creamy finish. Light oak aging complements the Cuyo valley sourcing. A perfect introductory malbec! ($18)

(86) Dos Fincas 2013 (Argentina). Floral aromas with notes of sweet tea; light to medium bodied, an easygoing malbec sourced from two vineyards. ($13)

Rating System

(92-100 points)

A top-flight wine. Superior in taste and character and providing an outstanding price/value relationship.

(86-91 points) A very good wine and an excellent value. A wine for which customers will keep coming back.

(80-85 points) An above-average wine at a reasonable price point, which many consumers will enjoy.

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