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With its strong focus on malbec, Argentina’s wine industry has turned April 17 into an international celebration of its most successful grape variety. Malbec World Day marks the day in 1853 when the first malbec vines arrived in the country as part of the plans to establish Argentina’s first agricultural and winemaking school.
Celebrating 169 years of drive and determination to produce well-made and enjoyable malbecs is certainly worthy of praise. While the malbec grape was originally cultivated in Bordeaux and the Cahors region of France, for many wine lovers, it has become synonymous with Argentina.
Of every three bottles shipped from wineries in Argentina, two are malbec. Considering that Canada represents the third largest market for malbecs made in Argentina, a sizeable number of those shipments land here.
But beyond the history and continued success, there are other reasons I’m sharing these eight recommendations this week. These wines have more to offer than simply being affordable (less than $20 a bottle) and available. They are all well-made and enjoyable wines.
Unlike similarly priced red wines from other parts of the world, there are no obvious winemaking tricks to add flavour or smooth out the rough edges on display. There’s no residual sweetness to make red wine more attractive to consumers who don’t appreciate the rough texture of tannin or sharp edges of acidity. There aren’t any bourbon-barrel finished examples to build more depth, intensity or concentration in the finished wine.
Not many wine lovers would say any of these lack flavour. They might not appreciate that flavour profile, but that’s a different matter.
These are all serious red wines, made in a dry style, showing a range of flavours and personalities depending on where the grapes were grown and how they were handled by the various winemaking teams. No two are the same, which is why I continue to pay attention to the malbecs coming out of Argentina. As popular as they are, success hasn’t spoiled them.
Argento Estate Reserva Organic Malbec 2019 (Argentina), $14.95
Produced with organically grown malbec grapes from Lujan de Cuyo and Altamira in Mendoza, this is an appealingly ripe and round red wine. Attractive juicy dark berry fruit and vanilla flavour combined with a supple texture make for an easy to appreciate style. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $19.98 in Newfoundland.
Bodega Norton Barrel Select Malbec 2021 (Argentina), $14.35
Norton’s barrel select malbec is made in a full-bodied style with nice balance of fruit flavours, acidity and alcohol (14 per cent) and decent complexity for the price. The mix of dark fruit, peppery spice, earth and herbs presents more of a serious character than many Mendoza malbecs at this price. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $14.99 in Manitoba, $14.15 in Quebec, $15.29 in New Brunswick, $15.99 in Nova Scotia, $14.49 in Prince Edward Island, $16.99 in Newfoundland.
El Esteco Don David Reserve Malbec 2020 (Argentina), $17.20
There is a lot to appreciate about this entry-level red wine made by El Esteco in the Calchaqui Valley in northern Argentina. Consistently made in a robust style, with complex earthy, spice and floral notes alongside the dark-fruit aromas and flavours common to the malbec grape, this is a rich and flavourful red. Drink now to 2027.
Available in Ontario at the above price ($15.20 until April 24, 2022), $16.49 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $17.49 in Saskatchewan, $18.45 in Quebec, $19.29 in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, $16.99 in Prince Edward Island, $18.25 in Newfoundland ($16.75 until April 30, 2022).
Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Organic 2019 (Argentina), $15.65
The Boscaini, which owns Masi winery in the Veneto, makes this eclectic red wine in Mendoza’s Uco Valley by blending the local malbec grape with lightly dried corvina grapes as a nod to its Italian heritage. Masi effectively uses the appassimento method, which sees grapes picked and dried in a control setting to concentrate flavours to produce its famous amarones. The result is a rich wine with dark fruit, spice and cocoa notes with a silky texture and tart finish, which make this a style best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $14.99 in British Columbia ($11.99 until April 30, 2022), various prices in Alberta.
Toso Estate Malbec 2020 (Argentina), $15.15
Made in a simple, easy-to-appreciate style, the Toso Estate Malbec offers ripe, juicy fruit flavours with some violet and toasted oak notes. Despite its generous alcohol (14.5 per cent abv declared on the label, but not perceptible on the nose or palate), this comes across as lighter in style, making for a red that’s a quintessential pizza, pasta or burger wine and also enjoyable on its own. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price ($13.15 until April 24, 2022), $15.99 in British Columbia ($11.99 until April 30, 2022), various prices in Alberta.
Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2020 (Argentina), $16.20
There’s more grip and power to the Broquel Malbec, with dark fruit, spice and savoury notes adding depth of flavour and complexity in the glass. The acidity and fruit balance is spot on, while polished tannins add structure to the palate and a touch a dark chocolate bitterness to the finish. This is an expressive style that should be a winning match for roast or grilled meat entrees. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, $18.49 in British Columbia ($16.49 until April 30, 2022), $19.49 in Saskatchewan, $16.49 in Manitoba, $15.90 in Quebec, $18.49 in New Brunswick, $18.99 in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, $17.98 in Newfoundland.
Trapiche Pure Malbec 2021 (Argentina), $16.20
Pure Malbec refers to the fact that this red wine was made without the use of oak barrels. Instead, it’s fermented and aged in concrete tanks to maintain the purity of fruit aromas and flavours. As a result, this is a lighter style of malbec that makes the most of its super juicy mix of red and black fruit flavours. The fresh character makes this an enjoyable red to have in the warm months ahead. I’d serve it with a slight chill for best enjoyment. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $18.49 in Saskatchewan, $16.99 in Manitoba, $16 in Quebec, $20.49 in New Brunswick, $20.29 in Nova Scotia, $20.99 in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
Trivento Reserve Malbec 2020 (Argentina), $12.95
Trivento Reserve Malbec makes an impression with its fresh and juicy style, which is lighter in body but not lacking in flavour. That juicy character makes this very drinkable – the style is perfect for pizza night or summer barbecues. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $15.49 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $16.49 in Saskatchewan, $12.49 in Manitoba, $17.99 in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, $18.99 in Nova Scotia, $17.83 in Newfoundland ($16.83 until April 30, 2022).