A Short Guide to Argentine Malbec

Argentine Malbecs
Photo by Meg Baggott

Argentina has a lot to offer beyond Malbec. But sometimes, what you really crave is this blockbuster, in all its lush and fruity glory. You want that deep, dark color backed by bold aromas and husky flavors of black fruits and oak; and you want it with empanadas and a juicy steak off the grill.

Originally a Bordeaux grape, Malbec now makes up about half of Argentina’s wine exports. From Mendoza, the heart of Argentina’s wine country, up north to San Juan and Salta, the grape reflects the many terroirs from which it hails.

When grown in warm regions to the north, Malbec is often dark, higher in alcohol and inflected with oak. From the higher, cooler reaches of Mendoza, the wines tend to have greater natural acidity.

So with such an expansive range of Argentine Malbecs on the market, what to buy?

Let’s focus on Malbec’s so-called midtier, where bottle prices stretch from the high teens up to $30. Each of the wines recommended below hails from a different growing region. Go ahead and mix and match to explore the world of Argentine Malbec.

Behind the Bottle with South American Sommeliers

Pick a mix, or try all six

Colomé 2016 Estate Malbec (Salta); $25. An inky style of Malbec with rusticity; Salta is in the extreme north of Argentina, where elevations exceed a mile high and sun exposure is intense.

La Posta 2017 Fazzio Malbec (Tupungato); $18. Dry berry-fruit aromas come with wild but controlled notes of leather and animal. A fresh palate is medium in weight and concentration, with crisp black-plum and cherry flavors supported by smooth tannins. A similarly fresh finish is consistent with the rest of this Malbec. Vine Connections.

Pyros 2015 Barrel Selected 160 Malbec (Pedernal Valley); $25. Jammy black fruit aromas are reedy and a touch herbal, with a note of fennel bulb. A raw, choppy palate is loaded and full, while this San Juan Malbec from Bodegas Salentein tastes herbal, minty, spicy and a touch green across the finish. Drink through 2021. Taub Family Selections.

Rutini 2015 Encuentro Malbec (Mendoza); $20. A concentrated nose includes aromas of blackberry, black plum, coconut and charred wood. A thick, almost syrupy palate is on the heavy and round side, while this tastes of ripe blackberry and cassis. A rich finish with peppery spice and fudge-like flavors is warming. Graziano Imports.

Zolo 2015 Reserve Estate Grown Malbec (Luján de Cuyo); $19. Dense compact aromas of blackberry and other dark fruits are what Luján Malbec is all about. This is full and integrated on the palate, while blackberry and oak-based spice flavors finish savory, with a note of graphite. Smooth, grainy tannins help this along. Vino Del Sol.

Zuccardi 2016 Polígonos del Valle de Uco Malbec (Paraje Altamira); $30. Pure aromas of Malbec grapes, cassis and violet petals is what this cement-raised wine delivers for starters. In the mouth, this is spring-loaded with rubbery tannins and mild acid-based astringency. Naturally blackened flavors of blackberry and dark plum are full, round and consistent across a long intense finish. Drink through 2024. Winesellers, Ltd. Editors Choice.

Published on April 16, 2019
Topics: Wine and Ratings
About the Author
Michael Schachner
Spanish and South American Editor

Reviews wines from Argentina, Chile and Spain.

Michael Schachner is a New York-based journalist specializing in wine, food and travel. His articles appear regularly in Wine Enthusiast, where he is a longstanding contributing editor responsible for South America and Spain. Schachner reviews more than 2,000 wines annually for WE and regularly travels to Chile, Argentina and Spain to keep abreast of the constantly changing global wine map. Email: mschachner@wineenthusiast.net.



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