10 of the Best Malbecs for $30 or Less

Four glasses of dark red wine

When looking for a quintessential big red, look no further than Malbec. The grape has become synonymous with Argentina, where it’s vinified into generous, full-bodied reds from across the country. However, wine lovers will be the first to tell you of the variety’s Old World origins.

Malbec, which is also known as Cot and sometimes referred to as “black wine,” has been grown in the Cahors region of Southwest France since at least the 16th century. It is also an approved Bordeaux variety and grown in the Loire Valley, where it produces a light-bodied wine.

Beyond Argentina and France, the grape has taken root in the United States, where producers in California, Oregon and Colorado create quality offerings.

A Short Guide to Argentine Malbec

Mendel 2017 Estate Grown & Bottled Malbec (Mendoza); 93 points, $25. Great midtier value is found in this full-force Malbec from a powerful vintage. A blueberry pie aroma is ripe to the max, alongside a whiff of graphite. The fully extracted palate bursts with cassis and berry flavors, while the more this breathes, the less heavy it seems. Drink through 2028. Vine Connections. –Michael Schachner

Chakana 2017 Estate Selection Malbec (Mendoza); $27, 92 points. Pure blackberry and black-cherry aromas are elevated by a note of exotic Middle Eastern spice. In the mouth, this is firm and tight, with a touch to tartaric bite. Common top-line Malbec flavors of blackberry, cassis, raisin, baking spices and chocolate finish under control. Drink through 2025. Kysela Père et Fils. –M.S.

Georges Vigouroux 2016 Château de Haute-Serre (Cahors); $24, 92 points. Full of black fruits, this wine has structure, density and concentration. At the same time, it shows restraint and even elegance, giving a poised statement of Malbec. Juicy acidity at the end adds freshness. Drink the wine from 2020. Baron Francois Ltd. Editors’ Choice. –Roger Voss

Lamadrid 2017 Single Vineyard Reserva Malbec (Agrelo); $20, 92 points. A full nose of cassis and black plum aromas offers an open invitation to an intense palate. More black fruit flavors come with a touch of dark chocolate, while it feels smooth, dense and chewy on the finish. Drink this full-bodied and affordable gem through 2025. Vino del Sol. Editors’ Choice. –M.S.

Finca Decero 2017 Remolinos Vineyard Malbec (Agrelo); $22, 91 points. Jammy blackberry and cassis aromas are ripe and include an exotic note of cardamom. A healthy palate is structured in layers, while the acidity on this Malbec registers on the low side, which brings richness to the fore. Flavors of blackberry, dark plum, baking spices and chocolate are steady on a focused finish. Drink through 2026. Vintus LLC. –M.S.

Château Labastide Haute 2017 Malbec (Cahors); $17, 90 points. This ancient estate has produced a richly structured wine. Still young, its juicy acidity is developing into the complex, dark tannins. With fruitiness still up front, the wine needs some more time to fill out. Drink from 2021. Wine Circle. –R.V.

Lionel Osmin & Cie 2016 Malbec (Cahors); $12, 90 points. This well-balanced wine shows both the tannins of Cahors and the fruit. It has structure, with a dry core that contrasts with the rich black fruits, laced with acidity and full of potential. Drink from 2020. Vintage Imports, Inc. Best Buy. –R.V.

Quady North 2016 Malbec (Applegate Valley); $25, 90 points. This is pure varietal, offering juicy black cherry fruit. It’s streaked with gunmetal and licorice, and lightly kissed with one-quarter new French oak that leaves a trailing impression of baker’s chocolate. –Paul Gregutt

The Infinite Monkey Theorem 2017 Malbec (Grand Valley); $25, 88 points. A black plum aroma carries the nose, coddled by notes of sarsaparilla and white pepper. The polished palate leans on bright acidity to keep the red plum, raspberry and cherry flavors tasting fresh, while tannins tickle the tip of the tongue. Ripe blackberry makes an appearance on the finish, lingering pleasantly with tart acidity. –Fiona Adams

Barefoot NV Malbec (California); $7, 86 points. A grape jam aroma and flavor gives this wine an easy, approachable style. It feels soft in texture and ends ripe and fruity. Best Buy. –Jim Gordon

Published on January 22, 2020
Topics: Wine and Ratings