Category Archives: Malbec

Malbec and blends

Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec 2010

Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec 2010Price: $8
Winery: BEDM Wines, Argentina
Varietal: Malbec
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.6%
Our Rating: 8.6 out of 10

Is there a varietal that offers as good a value as Malbec? Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec 2010 is yet another very inexpensive but totally drinkable red wine from Argentina. It’s very juicy and jammy with blueberry and raspberry notes, and offers a tart, peppery finish.

The Bodega Elena de Mendoza website doesn’t tell us much about the brand (reportedly, it is an E. J. Gallo brand), though it does say: Continue reading

Zarpado Malbec 2009

Zarpado Malbec

Zarpado Malbec 2009

Price: $7
Winery: Mendoza Vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina
Varietal: Malbec
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.7%
Our Rating: 8.7 out of 10

Malbecs tend to offer some of the better red wine values, but for a mere seven bucks Zarpado Malbec 2009 is an even better value than most. It has an aroma of leather and red berries, and is surprisingly complex on the palate for such an inexpensive wine. The overall impression is of juicy blackberries and raspberries, but there’s a hint of tobacco and the finish offers tannins that are pleasantly robust. Continue reading

Malbec Dominance Continues

New sales data shows tht Malbec is officially the hottest wine export from Argentina:

Malbec stood for 40.1% of the volume of bottled wine exports during 2010 (this percentage was 34% in 2009). Except in The Netherlands (Chardonnay) and Paraguay (blend red wines), Malbec was the leader variety in the main 25 destinations, with high share percentages on the total, which in most cases is higher than 30%. For instance, in United States, 60% of the volume was for Malbec, while this figure amounted to 48% in Switzerland, 47% in Mexico and 37% in Peru. [From Malbec keeps on breaking records by Gabriela Marizia.]

From our perspective here at Box Wines, that trend makes a lot of sense. Malbecs are easy-drinking and usually (though not always) inexpensive. More importantly, it seems that even sub-$10 Malbecs are often quite drinkable. With the US economy still in recovery mode in 2010, good but inexpensive wines are a logical choice.

And, lovers of boxed wine can enjoy Malbec, too. We found Vaca Morada Malbec in a 3 liter box – .at around $4 per bottle, it’s a great value. This trend was evident last year, too, as reported in Malbec Crushing Other Grapes.

Colores Del Sol Malbec 2008 Reserva

Price: $9
Maker: Colores del Sol Wines, Argentina
Varietal: Malbec
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 9.1 out of 10

Malbecs tend to be reliable and inoffensive, even inexpensive ones. Though I didn’t have high expectations for Colores Del Sol Malbec 2008 Reserva at under $10, one taste showed I had a winner. In the glass, this Malbec is a very dark ruby/garnet color. The aroma was pleasant enough, with berry and mild clove notes. On the palate, though, Colores del Sol exploded with a big blackberry and raspberry blast, milder chocolate notes, and a peppery finish with moderate tannins. Overall, this Malbec tasted like a much more expensive wine.

Wine bloggers were unanimous in their praise for this value-priced wine. The Frugal Oenologist found it “pleasing” with “an even finish.” WineWaves suggested for the 2009 vintage, “Don’t wait around for this wine to age. When a wine is so purely attractive in its youth, why tempt fate?” The Booze Hound recommends it as a “cheap wine that doesn’t suck.” The Wine Cellar at Wichita Falls Crave found Colores del Sol Malbec “stunning in the glass” with “enormous aromas” and called it a “must buy.”

Need a red wine that will deliver big, bold flavor that won’t cost a fortune? I highly recommend Colores Del Sol Malbec 2008 Reserva.

Malbec Crushing Other Grapes

The hottest varietal in the U.S. wine market is Malbec, grown in Argentina and known for making red wines that are modest in cost and approachable in flavor.

According to recent data from The Nielsen Company, Argentine wines saw a 59.6 percent growth in dollar volume percent change on the U.S. market—by far the largest experienced by any foreign wine-producing country on our market that Nielsen tracks—in the last year ending December 12, 2009. Chile saw an increase of 6.8 percent and Spain, 3.3 percent, in the same period. For two of Argentina’s biggest competitors on the import side, these low, single-digit growth rates pale in comparison. Malbec was also up 55.7 percent in dollar volume percent change over the 13 weeks ending December 12, 2009 and 42.8 in a four-week period ending the same date, according to The Nielsen Company. [From Feisty Malbec.]

Here are a few Malbecs we’ve reported on.

Franciscan Oakville Estate Magnificat 2003

Price: $50
Maker: Franciscan Oakville Estate, Rutherford, California
Varietal: Red Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.1 %
Our Rating: 8.9 out of 10

We opened our bottle of Franciscan Oakville Estate Magnificat 2003 as a Christmas dinner treat to accompany a standing rib roast. This is a more costly wine than we usually comment on here, and we looked forward to experiencing a big red – this is a Meritage blend, ostensibly the best of the best, and it weighs in at a hefty 14.1% alcohol level, higher than a typical cab. While I wasn’t able to track down the blending proportions for the 2003 Magnificat, the 2005 vintage was almost three-quarters Cabernet Sauvignon with almost all of the rest Merlot; the Malbec and Petit Verdot were only a percent or two each.

This Meritage blend has a deep ruby color, and offers a bright and explosive berry aroma. On the palate, plum and black cherry notes combine with chocolate. There wasn’t a lot of pepper or spice in the finish, but the finish was long with plenty of chewy tannins. Although I uncorked the wine well in advance of the first pour, it wasn’t until the bottle was partially consumed and the wine had still more air that it really came into its own. I’d suggest ample breathing opportunity, or even decanting.

Around the Web, Grape Thoughts found the 2001 Franciscan Magnificat to be “magnificent.”

Overall, this wine didn’t disappoint – it offered good structure and complexity, and certainly held its own with flavorful prime rib. Would I run out and buy more at $50? Hard to say. Despite the fact that expensive wine tastes better, for my palate, at least, the Franciscan Magnificat 2003 wasn’t that much better than some wines costing half as much or less. (On the other hand, perhaps I need to spend more time drinking wines in this price range and higher to expand my appreciation for their presumed subtleties.) In any case, if the price isn’t off-putting, you’ll find this wine to be a solid choice.

Toca Diamonte 2004

Price: $4
Maker: Fecovita, Mendoza, Argentina
Varietal: Malbec (70%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%)
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 13%
Our Rating: 7.5 out of 10

I was really excited by the ridiculously low price of $4 for a Malbec/Cab blend from Argentina, but Toca Diamonte 2004 ended up being a disappointment. (A $4 wine that isn’t spectacular? Shocking, eh?) This blend has some cherry and spice notes, but comes across as thin. Sometimes various levels of breathing will let a red like this become a bit more robust and complex, but it didn’t happen this time. The finish isn’t bad, but overall this wine doesn’t have much to offer.

Wine Memoirs was a bit luckier than us, apparently, and comments,”acceptably-balanced blend, with a hint of black cherry, was pretty good stuff.” There wasn’t any info about the Diamonte wine on the Fecovita website, although I did catch a glimpse of a similar bottle on their splash page. Fecovita appears to be a well-established winery, and I suspect this rebranded product isn’t the finest they have to offer.

Gascon Malbec 2006

Gascon MalbecPrice: $11
Maker: Bodegas Escorihuela Gascon, Argentina
Varietal: Malbec
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, synthetic cork
Alcohol: 14.2%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Gascon Malbec 2006 is packaged with a simple but elegant label and what looks like a composite cork. Its nose is an enticing blend of spice, vanilla, and berries. This Malbec is full bodied and relatively high in alcohol content, but it’s not a fruit bomb. Cherry and raspberry notes blend with a hint of chocolate, oak, and rather prominent tannins for a long-lasting and dry finish.

This seems to be the only Gascon wine available in the U.S. The Gascon website has but a single page of content, and it’s devoted to their 2006 Malbec. The parent company seems to have some additional products; oddly, their website seems to offer both English and Spanish options, but the language links are broken.

The Style Gourmet has some very detailed notes on Gascon Malbec 2006, concluding that, “This is a toasty wine all around, and one you can get your teeth into.” Koeppel on Wines thought this wine, “delivered the goods.” In Vino Veritas liked its ” black cherry flavors accented by smoky, chocolaty notes.” Wine & Dine proclaimed Gascon Malbec a “pick of the week” and said, “It’s a bit unusual, fairly potent and ready for prime rib.”

Vaca Morada Malbec

Vaca Morada MalbecPrice: $16
Maker: Vinalia SA, Mendoza, Argentina
Varietal: Malbec
Packaging: 3 liter box, pushbutton spigot
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Vaca Morada Malbec is the first new boxed red wine we’ve found in a while, and we’re glad we did. This non-vintage wine (termed a 2006 by the importer) from Argentina has a leathery nose backed up with raspberries and spice. The flavor is juicy and well balanced, with dark berry notes combining with chocolate and light pepper. Light acidity perks up the finish and balances the fruit. Vaca Morada Malbec is a pleasant and accessible wine that will please a variety of red wine drinkers.

“Vaca Morada” is Spanish for “purple cow” – an apt name for this reddish purple wine. Oddly for a “critter” name, there’s no cow image on the American import box – that would seem to limit its marketing impact when stacked against competition like Funky Llama, Yellow Tail, and the rest of the critter crew. The Vinalia website seems to be mostly under construction. One thing we find encouraging about this wine is that it’s the first boxed wine not from the U.S. or Australia that we’ve seen in our local market (which is admittedly limited). It’s great to see both a less common varietal like Malbec as well as a less common wine exporter like Argentina showing up on the neighborhood shelves, and even better to have it be a fine wine for parties or glass-a-day dinner companion.

Conquista Malbec 2005

Price: $7
Maker: Prestige Wine Group (importers), Princeton, MN
Varietal: Malbec
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 13%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Malbecs aren’t all that common in the crush of Cabs, Merlots, and Shirazes on the typical shelf, so we couldn’t resist giving Conquista Malbec 2005, a product of the Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina, a try. It definitely qualifies as affordable, and we’re happy to report it’s quite drinkable, too. Its aroma is a pleasant blend of ripe berries and leather. The wine is light to medium bodied, with plummy notes blending into oak with soft tannins. If we can find a flaw in this wine, it’s that the flavor seems a bit thin despite exhibiting good structure. If you haven’t tried a Malbec, I’d compare this one to a lighter but still fruit-forward Merlot.

This is a pleasant enough wine for well under $10 – if you want to offer your guests a varietal that is a bit less common but your budget is limited, Conquista Malbec 2005 is a good choice.