Malbecs of Argentina -Top Picks for Barbeques

Looking for a steak-friendly wine for barbeques?  Look no further than the section in the wine store labeled “Argentina”, and then look for Malbec. 

Malbec  sales in the USA are up from 200,000 cases in 2002 to more than 4 million cases in 2010.  This is largely due to importers like WineBow, who often sponsors groups of writers-chefs-photographers to taste the wines on site.  I went in March and that’s the origin of the delicious choices I am recommending to you below.

 Malbec is not a new grape to the Americas.  When Spanish conquistadors invaded Argentina in 1561, they planted European vines around Mendoza.  There are many factors that assisted Malbec in its ascendancy as a grape there, including the fact that the Huarpe Indians used Incan technology to build canals which channeled melting snow from the Andes Mountains to the sunny desert-like terrain of Mendoza.  That irrigation practice is still in place today. 

Nicolas and Laura Catena
Perhaps no one has shaped the destiny of this grape as much as Nicolas Catena.  He and his daughter Laura have built an incredible wine estate, Bodega Catena Zapata, not far from Mendoza.   Son Ernesto Catena has his own winery, Alma Negra.

I’ve found various Catena Malbecs in local stores for less than $20 a bottle.   Delicious.  Even more delicious are the Malbecs noted here:

Catena Alta Malbec 2008. MY TOP PICK. This is 100% Malbec, sourced from several of their vineyards. It’s a dark violet color. Aroma of ripe berries, wild flowers, mocha and tobacco. Taste is soft and silky, with cassis and black currant, and hints of chocolate, vanilla and black pepper. A wonderful minerality on the finish! 14 per cent alcohol, $55.

Catena Zapata Malbec Nicasia 2008. When the money tree falls on me, this will be my house wine! Grapes for this very special wine are selected from clusters plant-by-plant, and the grapes are manually de-stemmed. That begins to give you an idea of how special this wine is. Aroma of ripe black fruits, sweet spices and thyme.  A very complex and expressive wine on the palate, with flavors of dark berries, licorice, bitter chocolate and spicecake.” 14 per cent alcohol. $135 suggested retail price.

A recommendation as a light summer wine is Alma Negra Malbec Rose 2011.  It is refreshing and citrusy wine. The composition is 85% Malbec and 15% Pinot Noir, with all grapes coming from the Mendoza appellation. 12.7 per cent alcohol. $24

Over the next few months, I’ll write also about such varietals as Carmenere, Bonarda,  as well as the wines of Chile. Can’t wait?  See the Chile-Argentina section of winebiznews.blogspot

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