There’s a high-end wine shop in my Manhattan neighborhood called Burgundy Wine Company. As the name implies, this store traffics almost exclusively fine French cuvées—Burgundies, Rhône wines, Beaujolais, etc.
So imagine my surprise the last time I popped in to buy a couple of bottles of Gigondas and Chiroubles: Alone in the corner, but conspicuous as a flying pig, was a floor-stacked display of Enrique Foster Malbec from Argentina, the country most closely associated with this Bordeaux variety.
“What is that?” I asked my sales guy. “Why are you selling Malbec from Argentina in a place like this?”
“That’s for all the people who come in off the street, not knowing who we are or what we specialize in, and want Argentinean Malbec,” he answered. “Happens all the time; probably three or four times a day. If that many people want something, we’d be stupid not to offer it.”
And I thought Malbec’s popularity, which began blowing through the roof in this country starting about 10 years ago, was waning. At least that’s what the numbers say.
According to Wines of Argentina, a trade association that represents the country’s wine industry, from 2005 through 2010, shipments of Malbec to the U.S. increased by no less than 31% in any given year, with some years showing jumps of more than 40%, and 2008 seeing a leap of 61% over 2007.
But in recent years, the Malbec machine has slowed. In 2012, the increase in Malbec shipments from Argentina to the States was 2.8% over the prior year; in 2013 it was 4.1%. And last year, the quantity of Malbec that Argentina sent us actually fell by about 4%.
Meanwhile, a New York retailer of French wines is stocking Malbec in order to meet everyday demand, and rarely have I attended a party or event lately where Malbec wasn’t being poured.
The point I’m making is that numbers can be misleading. Yes, the Malbec movement may be losing some of its steam as the thrill of discovery gives way to widespread acceptance. But Malbec still ranks as one of the most popular varietal red wines out there. As Mark Twain once said about rumors of his own premature demise: Any assertions that Malbec is headed for the same grim fate as Merlot appear to be “greatly exaggerated.”
Following are five recommended Malbecs tasted and reviewed this year. Three are from Argentina, while the others hail from Chile and Cahors, France’s Malbec hotbed. For full tasting notes on each wine, including tips for when to drink them, check the Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide.
Château du Cèdre 2012 Cahors; $25, 91 points.
Pascual Toso 2012 Alta Malbec (Mendoza); $45, 92 points.
Trapiche 2011 Terroir Series Orellana Single Vineyard Malbec (Mendoza); $50, 92 points. Cellar Selection.
Trivento 2012 Golden Reserve Malbec (Luján de Cuyo); $21, 92 points.
Viu Manent 2011 San Carlos Single Vineyard Malbec (Colchagua Valley); $25, 91 points.