No other style of wine I review or write about generates as much reader interest as varietal Malbec from Argentina. Even as the summer hits full swing, wine drinkers want their go-to red wine, and who can blame them? Because when it comes to a proper pairing for steaks, burgers or lamb chops off the grill, what beats a well-made Malbec?
Just recently, Danielle Virant, a Twitter follower of mine who lives in Columbus, Ohio, reached out to ask when I was going to update my annual top Malbec list. Meanwhile, for the past few months Jim Allera of Apollo, Pennsylvania, has been asking for advice on what to buy other than Riglos, his favorite Malbec.
Well Danielle, Jim and legions of Malbec lovers, it’s time for a midyear report on the wines you crave. But first, a summary of recent Argentinean vintages, which have been inconsistent at best and downright problematic at worst.
Known for its desert-meets-mountain terroir, which normally translates to predictably dry conditions, hot days and cool nights brought on by high elevation, Argentina, the Mendoza region in particular, experienced mostly consistent vintages from 2002 through 2013. Some years were nearly perfect, like 2002 and 2006; some years were cooler, like 2007 and 2008; and a few years were hot, most notably 2009. But then came 2014, 2015 and this past harvest, none of which were easy due to factors ranging from hail to humidity and thunderstorms to persistent rains. Call it the El Niño effect, and it resulted in damaged crops in 2014, rot the year after, and this year a lot of grapes that never fully ripened.
The good thing about an ageworthy wine like Malbec, though, is that we can live in the past if we so choose. Here are four highly rated Argentinean Malbecs to drink now and over the next several years.
Achaval-Ferrer 2013 Finca Altamira (Mendoza); $140, 94 points. From La Consulta in the Uco Valley, this shows boysenberry aromas with an herbal cut and a note of leather. Flavors of desert brush, herbs, blueberry, savory plum and mixed spices finish with energy and subtlety. Drink through 2023; Editors’ Choice. Imported by Stoli Group USA.
Clos d’Argentine 2013 Winemaker’s Selection Reserva (Mendoza); $42, 93 points. Smoky, charred aromas of blackberry and blackened spices set up a bold palate with energy to spare. Blackberry and cassis flavors are rich, toasty and chocolaty, while the finish is lengthy. Drink through 2021. Imported by W. Direct.
Benegas 2011 Benegas Lynch La Encerrada Vineyard (Mendoza); $55, 93 points. Smoky and intense from the get-go, this black-as-night Malbec is full of blackberry, cassis and gamy aromas. Flavors of chocolate, burnt toast, salt and blackberry finish toasty and long. Drink through 2023. Imported by Maritime Wine Trading Collective.
Finca Sophenia 2013 Reserve (Tupungato); $17, 90 points. This muscular Malbec opens with a blast of ripe berry aromas offset by oaky coconut notes. Plum, black cherry and blackberry flavors end with a turn of oak-driven vanilla and balancing residual acidity. Drink now. Imported by Craft+Estate–The Winebow Group.