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The Malbec Grape

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About Malbec

(Synonyms: Agreste, Auxerrois, Auxerrois De Laquenexy, Auxerrois Des Moines De Picpus, Auxerrois Du Mans, Balouzat, Beran, Blanc De Kienzheim, Cahors, Calarin, Cauli, Costa Rosa, Côt, Cot A Queue Verte, Cotes Rouges, Doux Noir, Estrangey, Gourdaux, Grelot De Tours, Grifforin, Guillan, Hourcat, Jacobain, Luckens, Magret, Malbek, Medoc Noir, Mouranne, Navarien, Negre De Prechac, Negrera, Noir De Chartres, Noir De Pressac, Noir Doux, Nyar De Presak, Parde, Périgord, Pied De Perdrix, Pied Noir, Pied Rouge, Pied Rouget, Piperdy, Plant D'Arles, Plant De Meraou, Plant du Lot, Plant Du Roi, Prechat, Pressac, Prunieral, Quercy, Queue Rouge, Quille De Coy, Romieu, Teinturin, Terranis, Vesparo)


Malbec grapes Map showing the Bordeaux region of France

Malbec is a red-wine grape most associated with the Bordeaux region of France, but now also widely grown world-wide, most especially in Argentina, where it is considered that nation's "signature" varietal, and it is now also much grown in Chile. In France itself, Malbec, while present throughout Bordeaux (where it is a permitted ingredient in all Bordeaux red blends), is mainly grown in the Cahors region. Ironically, the evidence suggest that the grape, under the still-common synonym of Côt, originated in Burgundy. It is today surging in popularity (and runs the risk of being a "fad" wine, like Grüner Veltliner for whites).

The wines of Malbec are not drastically dissimilar to the other Bordeaux reds (especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, though also Merlot for younger Malbecs). In Bordeaux blends, Malbec adds darkness of color, tannins, and a distinctive plummy flavor. When bottled as a monovarietal, it produces very inky-dark wines of an intense nose and flavor, rich and fruity in nature. They are characterized by the typical dark-red fruit flavors, ranging down to plum, damson, and even raisin. There are overtones of other sorts, from leather and tobacco to herbs (even, some say, garlic). Malbec, however, can usually be picked out from the other Bordeaux by its sharpness, though poorer specimens, typically from warmer areas, can tend to be feeble and flabby.

Of the French renditions, those from Cahors are much preferred, the more generic Bordeaux renditions being somewhat softer and, as Jancis Robinson put it, "rustic" (a Cahors red must by law be at least 70% Malbec. Argentine Malbecs can be quite good but, despite their eminent reputation, if grown in warmer regions, somewhat pallid and weak shadows of good Malbec; good Argentine Malbecs tend to be less aggressively tannic and powerful—more "plush", as some say—than Cahors renditions (it is considered possible that Argentine Malbec vines are of different clones than French). The best Argentine malbec is said to be that from high-altitude plantings, notably those in Mendoza (the Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley districts). Malbec is also successful in other cool-climate growing regions, such as Washington State. Chilean Malbec from Chile's Central Valley wine region are less like Argentine wines and more like Cahors styling, generally being more tannic than their Argentine counterparts.

If you only became aware of Malbec from the skyrocketing popularity of Argentine bottlings, you need to be aware that there is now a major renaissance going on in Cahors, the historical home of Malbec (where till recently it was known as Auxerrois, and once as Côt). Centuries ago one finds frequent references to "the black wines of Cahors", and today's marketing slogan—a catchy one indeed—is "The black is back!" Cahors will never come remotely close to the production levels of the larger South American wineries, whose output is on a level with the Gallo Brothers, but they have a product and a message.

Modern Cahors is, however, experiencing an identity problem. They want to ride the wave of popularity for Malbec that Argentina has generated, but the vintners seem unsure which way to jump: make Malbecs that emulate the popular Argentine types, meaning softer, fruitier, and above all more immediately accessible (lower tannins); or emphasize the traditional and rather different old Cahors style of huge, powerful, tannic monsters that need some years of bottle age to get round the rough edges. Nowadays, one can find not a few examples of both kinds out there, so do not assume that a Cahors red is necessarily much different from an Argentine one; it may be much the same, or it may be wildly different. You need to know which kind you're seeking and which kind a given wine is if you are to avoid disappointment (not to say actual shock). Note: Cahors reds almost invariably want a lot of aeration prior to serving: decanting some hours ahead of time is frequently recommended.

Factoid: "Auxerrois" and "Côt" are nothing: Malbec has had, in its time, over a thousand different synonym names.

Some Descriptions of Malbec Wines

  • Wikipedia

    "Wine expert Jancis Robinson describes the French style of Malbec common in the Libournais (Bordeaux region) as a "rustic" version of Merlot, softer in tannins and lower in acidity with blackberry fruit in its youth. The Malbec of the Cahors region is much more tannic with more phenolic compounds that contribute to its dark color. Oz Clarke describes Cahors' Malbec as dark purple in color with aromas of damsons, tobacco, garlic, and raisin. In Argentina, Malbec becomes softer with a plusher texture and riper tannins. The wines tend to have juicy fruit notes with violet aromas. In very warm regions of Argentina, Chile, and Australia, the acidity of the wine may be too low which can cause a wine to taste flabby and weak. Malbec grown in Washington state tends to be characterized by dark fruit notes and herbal aromas."

  • Stacy Slinkard, about.com

    "Malbec is typically a medium to full-bodied, dry red wine with plenty of acidity and higher tannin and alcohol levels. Dark, inky purple color profiles and ripe fruit flavors of plums, black cherry and blackberry can give this wine a decidedly jammy character. Smoke, earth, leather, wild game, tobacco and white/black pepper along with a slew of high profile spices can make for an interesting medley of aromas and flavors, adding to layers of complexity and unique food pairing profiles."

  • Wine Folly

    "ARGENTINA: The main fruit flavors in a glass of Argentine Malbec are blackberry, plum and black cherry. The nuanced flavors offer milk chocolate, cocoa powder, violet flowers, leather and, depending on the amount of oak aging, a sweet tobacco finish.
    FRANCE: While Argentine Malbec is fruit forward, France is quite the opposite. Malbec from the Cahors region is, at first, leathery with flavors of tart currant, black plum and savory bitterness often described as green. French Malbecs, from the Loire and Cahors, have higher acidity which attributes to flavors described as black pepper and spice. Because of their moderate tannin and acidity with lower alcohol, French Malbec wines tend to age longer."

  • Wine Searcher

    "Broadly speaking, French Malbec tends to be more meaty, rustic and tannic, while examples from Argentina seem to be uniformly rich, ripe, jammy and juicy. On both sides of the Atlantic, Malbec wines are generally aged in oak to enhance the wine’s structure and aging potential."

  • Fred Tasker, Miami Herald

    "Malbec, the flagship red grape of Argentina, may make the world’s most user-friendly wine. With its saturated violet hue, aromas and flavors of black cherries and milk chocolate, ripe, velvety tannins and full body, it epitomizes the New World style in red wines. .  Malbec is no tannic steak wine. Its voluptuous richness makes it a comfort wine for comfort foods — beef stews, coq au vin, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, burritos, hamburgers or chili — be it red-bean, beef or chicken. With a bit of nerve, you could serve it at dessert with chocolate brownies or sliced strawberries with balsamic vinegar on ice cream.

  • Jancis Robinson

    "Good Argentine Malbec, and there is a great deal of it for Argentina is one of the world's most prolific wine producers, is deeply coloured, spicily rich with an exuberant juiciness and has as a trademark an almost velvety texture."

  • Total Wine

    "The ripe and plush Malbec wines of Argentina feature dark fruit flavors of blackberry, blueberry and black raspberry and supple tannins, with nuances of violets and toasty oak in the more expensive offerings."

  • wineaccess.com

    "Argentine producers have dramatically cut yields and replaced large old wood casks with oak barriques. They've taken more care in selecting appropriate planting sites, developing cooler, high altitude vineyards that benefit from warm days and cool nights. International consultants have arrived, too, imparting up-to-date knowledge about vinification techniques as well as a sense of what style of wines compete successfully in the international wine mark et. Some are critical of this trend, arguing that it leads to homogenization of wine styles. Maybe so, but we still feel that some of these improvements are certainly welcome, for the best Malbecs are polished, structured, and concentrated, but still showcase the local terroir."

  • Argentina Wine Guide

    "However, Malbec is fairly sensitive to its climate. In cooler conditions (in Mendoza, this normally means a higher altitude) it is a thick-skinned grape which develops high acidity and tannic content, giving rise to more robust wines. At lower altitudes the grapes have thinner skins, more juice, and produce wines that are lighter-bodied and more suited to drinking young. Flavours most commonly associated with Malbec include plums, cherries, currants and raspberries. Fruit, as well as colour, may be perceived as black or red depending on the origin of the fruit, as well as the wine-making style. Argentine Malbec is generally liberally oaked, and even the earlier drinking styles reflect the resulting flavours – vanilla, spice, as well as occasional tobacco notes."

  • Wine pages

    "Part of the [Cahors] marketing and educational strategy has been to segment Cahors production into three levels, known as 'Tradition', 'Prestige' and 'Spéciale'. This is a voluntary code, but one which is very widely adhered to. So that consumers can know broadly what to expect, each of the three levels is meant to fit a certain stylistic profile and price bracket. . . Higher proportions of Merlot and Tannat appear in the 'Tradition' wines too, which are normally blends, whilst at the 'Spéciale' level the majority of wines are 100% Malbec. Each of the three tiers fits a recommeded price bracket too: under 7€, 7 to 14€, and over 14€ respectively. But some of the top estates fetch significantly more."

  • Jancis Robinson

    "Apart from the fact that they are both red, one can hardly recognise a relationship between most of the Malbec produced in Cahors and that produced in its modern home, Argentina."

Some Malbecs to Try

(About this list.)

There are tons of Malbecs available, and not a few, especially the South American ones, are quite inexpensive. Many of them come with someone's enthusiastic recommendation, so the chief problem was to find some consensus choices.

We also decided that it would be best to present two distinct lists, one of South American bottlings and one of Cahors bottlings; in the latter, we wanted to keep to Cahors wines of the "real" Cahors style, not imitations of the Argentine "international" style, so that you could sample the distinct differences. But at these prices (under $20), all you get is "entry-level" Cahors, which tend (for saleability) toward the globally popular softer Argentine style; we did try to pick those most often described as having at least some of the "old, dark" quality, so as to widen the spectrum as much as was feasible. (Be aware, when reading the various notes, that many tasters have Argentine Malbec as their Platonic ideal, and so may have trouble evaluating Cahors wines de novo when first encountered.)

We wanted to also include some Washington State Malbecs, as they are said to be quite good, but there it was a price wall: there seem no respectable Washington Malbecs below about $25, and most of the recommended ones are a deal more. Well, here are the lists, and we don't think you can go wrong with them. (In a couple of cases, we have listed two similar but distinct wines from a particular winery, to help better illustrate the spectrum.)

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.

South American Malbecs:

  • Catena Zapata Alamos Malbec, $7 - $9.
    (Don't confuse this with their "Selección" bottling, listed farther below.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    At times the Alamos Malbec can be quite a nice wine. It really depends on the particular conditions of the store and which lot of Malbec the Alamos actually is. The issue with a massively produced wine .  is product consistency. It is very hard to make a wine, that ages and changes over time, to taste the same from bottle to bottle because of several factors. First, they don’t distribute all of the wine of a given vintage at the same time. Why? Well let’s just estimate that Catena produces 10 million liters of Malbec per year for the Alamos label. It’s not like all 10 million of those liters of wine can be bottled, labelled, shipped, stored or consumed all at the same time. There is a production process and it depends on consumption. Second, given the time of year, the region of the world, the shop where you are buying the wine, and many other “climactic factors” (like temperature in storage, temperature fluctuation, light exposure, and so forth), the wine will taste different. Third, because demand is so high for this wine, there are many different production facilities that actually make this wine, and thus many different sources for it, creating further variability. All said, the Alamos Malbec is most often a consistent example of what Malbec can be: soft, easy drinking and affordable. It is not going to knock your socks off but it will get the job done.

    Winemaker Felipe Stahlschmidt knows how to make good wine, and that's for certain. The Malbec is a great wine to start with, is robust in flavor, sure to leave some weight on your palate. Think dark color, violet aromatics with caramel, hints of spice and jammy fruit flavors with a deep, lush finish and you'll soon purchase a bottle or two of your own. And know that this wine is good to drink now.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (date unknown), 88 points.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (June 2005), 87 points.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown), 85 points.

    Aromatically displaying lively red as well as black fruits, the medium-bodied 2004 Malbec exhibits lovely breadth in its cherry-packed personality. Expressive, fresh, and satin-textured, it reveals a structured, tannin-filled finish. This excellent value should be drunk over the next 2-3 years.

    The wine is a medium to deep ruby color. The nose has plums, blackberries, fresh ground espresso and toasty oak. On the palate the plums jump out first and grudgingly allows some ground espresso to slip through. The finish is a touch short and is dominated by toasty oak with a touch of fruit in the background providing some needed sweetness. (85 pts)

    Deep purple pigment gives way to blackberry mixed with a bit of violet and toasted oak to make up initial aromatic impressions on the 2011 Alamos Malbec. Well-distributed and offering a solid value in the bargain bin category, the Alamos Malbec is a fine introduction to Argentina's beloved red wine grape.

    The 2010 Alamos Malbec has a dark purple colour with violet highlights. The nose offers bright black cherry aromas with light floral notes and a touch of toast. The 'mouth feel' is full and rich, with ripe, concentrated cassis and black raspberry fruit interwoven with a touch of chocolate and sweet spice from light oak aging. The finish shows ripe, silky tannins.

    We’ve been fortunate enough to taste the last three vintages of Alamos Malbec, and this may be one of the most underrated $10 wines on the market. While each displays different flavor profiles, their quality remains consistent from year to year. The 2002 Alamos Malbec shows boysenberry and cherry with hints of toast and pepper. The 2003 Alamos Malbec is mochalicious, while the Alamos 2004 Malbec is cinnamony with bright blackberry and cassis.

    Alamos Malbec 2010 needs some time in the glass after you open to be at its best. Its not harsh right after opening, but it improves with 30 minutes of air. The deep dark purple wine smelled "grapey" immediately after opening it, but changed to blackberry after 30 minutes. The nose has some spice to go along with the blackberry. The flavor is blackberry, black pepper, and clove. The wine is light-to-medium bodied (even with the 13.8% alcohol), has medium tannins, and a long finish. After tasting the wine I read the back label to see what the vintner says about it: "dark cherry and blackberry flavors, with a long and lingering finish. This balanced and full-flavored wine is excellent with grilled meats and vegetables." I agree with it all, possibly even the dark cherry. It doesn't have a long list of flavors that overwhelm you, but the two flavors of blackberry and spice/clove are so good, so well integrated, so satisfying, that the wine is simply enjoyable. It's an all-around solid, well-made wine that is satisfying to drink. It's simple, but that's not a bad thing; it requires more complexity than this to move from "like" to "love." Taste Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

    We previously reviewed the 2009 and didn't care for it much, so we were interested to try another vintage and see how it compared. Fortunately, we liked it a lot better this year. The 2010 Alamos Malbec begins with a ton of different aromas: dark ripe fruit, vanilla, licorice, cedar, pepper, even a little caramel. This one reminds me a bit of the Apothic red in that regard. Tasting the wine doesn't show a ton of depth but all the interesting flavors from the nose carryover. The finish shows a nice bit of spice on the dry finish with fruit flavors that linger for a bit. Definitely better than the 2009 and a nice wine for the price! Taste Rating: 7; Cost Rating: 9; Overall Rating: 7.5. Recommended Buy.

    In the glass, the Alamos is a dark, inky purple. On the nose I caught scents of cherry, plum and earth. It is a medium-to-light-bodied wine (on the cusp, I’d say). Flavors for me were dark cherry, spiced plum, moss, light hints of coffee bean, and a touch of cough syrup on the finish. Acidity seemed fine, and alcohol is at 13.7%. It’s pleasant, very easy to drink, and gentle on the palate.

    Alamos is the family’s economy brand, but if you’re looking for a good medium bodied, rich and silky red with nice dark berries and a little bit of spice? You’ve got it in their Malbec. And best thing is – it’s usually less than $10 and you can find it almost anywhere. . . I picked up a few bottles. They are definitely gone by now.

  • Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec, $8 - $14.
    (Don't confuse this with their "Broquel" bottling, listed farther below.)
         ($12.64 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    The color was a dark burgundy, and it looked great. . . The smell it gave off was awesome. I smelled oak, currant, blackberry, and pepper. It makes me want to make a cologne called "Trapiche for Men." You know all you ladies out there would like it on your man. You know what is good about Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec? Yeah, you guessed it. Pretty much everything. The medium body of the wine brought the oak flavor, which was not overpowering at all. The blackberry flavors were welcomed by the palate at first taste and tapered off as you got into the long, smooth, spicy finish. . . Rating: Enjoy Again. This wine packs a bit of a punch, and I had a lot of fun with it. I recommend searching for a couple of bottles of your own this week. I think you will be happy with what you find.

    This is a delicious Malbec with intensity and kick, fruit and firm tannins. Malbec continues to be Argentina's signature grape and for good reason - it is rugged enough to handle a variety of meats, sausages and chipotle accents. The flavor profile consists of blackberry and some plum with a bit of smokiness and vanilla spice.

    Deep, purplish red in color. Nice nose with blackberry, black cherry, oak, and spice aromas. Blackberry, plum, and licorice come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity and medium to high, chewy tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish. . Quality: 4 stars (out of 5). QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5).

    This 2012 Oak Cask Malbec from Trapiche is an excellent example of quality and value in the same bottle. This one grabs your nose as soon as you open the bottle with aromas of dark fruit and spice. The color is rich and dark, more purple than red. The flavors abound with blueberries and currants, and an underscore of cherry, highlighted by spicy, earthy nuances. The finish is long and clean, with a little vanilla, mixed with mellow oak and mild tannins, imparted by the nine months spent in the barrel. The alcohol content is 14%. 91 points.

    Spicy, smoky toasted oak and vanilla nose with peppery, black cherry aromas with some sweaty saddle streaks. It has a rich but dry and somewhat tannic entry that is a bit tart. Huge smoky oaky vanilla peppery coffee flavours with some black cherry jam fruit. Too much oak here and somewhat unbalanced.

    The result of the vinification and ageing is a wine that is ruby in color and clear in clarity. The nose has notes of cedar, wood and coffee. The taste has a perceptible residual sweetness, strawberry fruit flavors and cinnamon.

    A standard malbec, nothing special but solid and clean, without much fruit but a nice hint of fresh-baked bread towards the end.

    Color: Medium red-ruby w. some purple tinges on the rim. Appeals! Nose: Hint of oak, cherry, cassis, chocolate, dark berries on day 2. "Cranberry" from across the table. Palate: Initial entry thoughts are smooth, ripe-ish, plum, oak, cherry. Long soft finish, good acidity, integrated tannins, no heat. Simple and approachable, blackberry on day 2 with some earthyness. Good QPR.

  • Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón "Don Miguel Gascón" Malbec, $9 - $14.
    (Some say this is cut with 5% Shiraz/Syrah, but the winemaker notes say 100% Malbec; that may vary with vintage.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Gascon, which is in Argentina’s Mendoza region, was the first Latin American producer to offer Malbec as a varietal, in the 1940′s. They bottle only 2 wines-this Malbec, and a Reserve Malbec. And they have certainly gotten it right! This is really good. Really good. It has body, enough soft, smooth acidity to let you know it’s there, a host of fruit, berry, cherry, and plum hints, an inviting smell of cherry and plum, and a nice linger of fruit after a sip. One of those persons whose opinions I value, often makes an analogy between coffee and wine. And the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Most mornings, the Folgers is more than adequate. It smells good, tastes ok, and gets the day going. But every once in a while we’ll have a pot of freshly opened Gevalia, and it’s just more sensual in every way. That, my friends, is the case with the Gascon Malbec.

    I opened the bottle of Gascón Malbec and poured a few glasses, to which [my husband] immediately dipped his nose in and exclaimed, “It’s like sticking your nose in a blueberry pie!” Aside from the aromas of blackberry, plum and a hint of mocha – and blueberry, you can really taste the plum and blackberry fruit in this malbec. Needless to say, the bottle emptied pretty quickly.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown), 89 points.

    The 2010 Don Miguel Gascon Malbec delivers plenty of bang for the buck. It was aged for 7 months in French and American oak and offers up a pleasing perfume of cedar, spice box, brier, black cherry, and red licorice. This sets the stage for a medium-bodied, savory, nicely proportioned Malbec with excellent depth and length. This tasty effort is an excellent value meant for drinking over the next 3-4 years.

    There isn’t much intensity on the nose of this wine. I gave it a while to open up and it’s still tight. Although it lacks intensity, the aromas are pleasant with jammy blackberry and a soft, dusty earthiness. On the palate it has much more concentration to the flavors than the nose would indicate. This is a big wine that gives loads of blackberry and plum flavors up front, leading into cocoa that carries into a fairly long finish. Fine tannins and sufficient acidity give this wine reasonable structure. In the grand scheme, it’s a decent Malbec. But for the price, it’s very good. 85 points.

    A pure expression of the fruit, Don Miguel Gascón Malbec is a full bodied wine with a deep violet color, showcasing flavors and aromas of blackberry, blueberry, plum, dark cherry, and a hint of mocha. The wine is elegant and rich in texture, with plush, round tannins and finely integrated oak characteristics. Final flavors of black spice and maple combine to create a long, velvety finish. Our only reservation is a hint of vegetation on the finish, which leaves the wine after about 1/2 hour of aeration, indication a bit of aging would be rewarding.

    The basic 2011 Malbec ($15) is produced from 100% Malbec, sees only a touch of oak for some added complexity and has an alcohol content of 13.9%. This is an introductory Malbec, created to show the "true" Malbec, the typical flavor profile. It is inky dark with an intense aroma of black fruit, violets and deep spice. On the palate, it was a simple but smooth and delicious wine, with tasty flavors of plum and blackberries, with a spicy backbone. An easy drinking wine that also offers a good value.

    This stuff rocks! It has a huge nose of plum and cassis, with dark berry notes and bitter chocolate. On the palate, a nice coating of plum and chocolate, with a long finish. This is why people are flocking to Argentina these days, because if this were from the States, then it would be three times the price! This can be put away for up to 5-6 years, if you can wait that long!

    The wine is a medium to dark ruby color. The slightly different nose has an adhesive tape element to go with crushed blackberries, dark chocolate, minerals and earthy underbrush. This has a medium to full body with moderate to solid tannins and good acidity. On the palate the crushed berries and minerals initially take hold with dark chocolate and earthy elements coming in on the back end. The finish has decent length with a reappearance of the adhesive tape (bret). The apparent bret element will turn a lot of people off but it’s not that distracting for those of us who thinks it can add an element to a wine in small doses. That said, this is pushing the limits of my bret tolerance. (85 pts) I should note, no one else noticed anything wrong with this wine, so the bret issue I encountered could be related to the dreaded “bottle variation”.

    This wine had a beautiful dark purple hue to it. Purple is my favorite color and the color definitely comes from the Shiraz in the blend and from sitting on the skins for 4 days. Aromas of blackberry, plum and hints of cedar and violets filled the glass. The wine was very smooth with rounded tannins and flavors of maraschino cherry, blueberry and black fruit. The finish held hints of spice that lingered for a bit.

  • Zuccardi "Serie A" Malbec, $11 - $15.
    (The "Serie A" line comprises their entry-level wines.)
         ($12.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    In the glass, this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec is an intense ruby red colour. Streaks of violet towards the rim of this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec are emblematic of the Malbec grape. There is no evidence of the oak maturation undertaken by 70% of this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec in the colour of the wine, with the ruby and violet hues running right to the rim without the appearance of any rusticity that would imply oak contact. On swirling, the alcoholic content of this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec is revealed to be pronounced as the legs of this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec take a prolonged period to dissipate. The bottle of this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec declares the alcoholic content to be 14% abv, although the winemakers notes for this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec show alcohol at 14.8% abv. Aromatically, this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec is fairly pronounced and shows seductive red and black fruit notes. Mingling with blackcurrant and damson fruit notes of this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec are aromas of tobacco and freshly ground coffee. On the palate, this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec is dry, full-bodied and smooth. Ripe and thick blackcurrant and chocolate notes define the core of this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec. Slightly more piquant damson fruit shows its head at times. Long throughout the palate and finish, this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec sees lifted notes of cassis and fading tobacco as this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec fades. The tannin structure of this 2010 Zuccardi “Serie A” Malbec is already well integrated (as is typical of 2010 Malbec from Mendoza) and is seductively supple. Drink now through to 2015.

    The 2011 is a bit gentler than the hardcore 2010, but still packing a decent punch, with a harmonious mix of cherry, plum and dried fruit, lightly dipped in chocolate. The oak influence is subtle and well-integrated, from 9 months in varying ages of barrel. Firmer in texture than most with a fine, lengthy finish. An absolute cracker.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (October 2012), 90 points.

    The 2011 Serie A Malbec from La Consulta, Vista Flores and Agrelo is 70% aged in barrel. It is showing just a little overripeness on the nose, with saturated red cherry fruit laced with fresh fig and prune. The palate is ripe and chewy with licorice and graphite-infused black fruit and a long, powerful finish that is both silky and refined. The quality and bravura of the palate makes you forgive the over-enthusiasm on the nose.

    Quite a deep plummy nose, with not a lot of the floral elegance of the grape, and a slightly suppressed aromatic. Palate has quite good fruit and a composed, compact personality. Doesn't totally sing for me, but a nice, solid wine. 86/100

    We met third generation winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi in New York recently and every other word out of his mouth was “terrior.” Tasting through five of the Zuccardi vineyards in Mendoza was eye-opening. The Serie A Malbec is truly a sum of three parts, blending their La Consulta, Vista Flores and Agrelo vineyards for the 2011 Vintage. Some say that it’s a bit overripe, however we feel our readers appreciate the big fruit bombs now and again. Remains well structured and layered on the palate. 91 Points

    Familia Zuccardi Serie A Malbec is an intense wine of color, aromas, and flavors. 80mph intense. Two-minute-warning-have-the-ball-down-by-three-points intense. Double rainbow intense. You’ll be overcome with red ripe fruits like plums, blackberries, and raspberries, but somehow it will balance with hints of soft vanilla oak. Complex with a long (what else?) intense finish.

    Malbec fans should rejoice with another value wine from Zuccardi (makers of FuZion) with the release of Zuccardi Serie A Malbec 2011. Blackberry and mocha take charge along with blueberry – especially near the finish (****).

    The Serie A is an impeccably made Malbec that reflects the earthy purity Sebastián Zuccardi covets. He takes great care in the vineyards coax the grapes to reflect their terrior and equal care in the winery to allow the true essence of the place he loves so much to be expressed in the finished wine. This, his entry level wine, has a dark, brambly nose of earthy fruit. In the mouth, the smooth dark, powerful fruit is also brambly and earthy, with strong but smooth and balanced tannins and a level of purity and complexity you don’t normally find in a wine at this price. It finishes with nice complexity and a perfect dose of juicy acidity. . . And all at an astonishing price.

  • Trapiche Broquel Malbec, $12 - $17.
    (Don't confuse this with their "Oak Cask" bottling, listed farther below.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Minty and toasty upfront, this is layered with blackberry, licorice, leather and toast aromas. It feels raring and ready to go, courtesy of firm acidity and good overall framing. Flavors of wild berry are bright, with herb and oak accents. Long, toasty and solid on the finish. 91 points.

    The 2010 Trapiche Broquel Malbec begins with pleasant aromas of blackberry, plum, coffee and dark chocolate. Tasting the wine reveals a really solid, tasty and relatively complex Malbec. Blackberry, licorice and toasty oak combine with some nice spice that lasts into the long finish and resolves into lingering coffee notes. This wine is probably still a bit young as it is fairly tannic at this point -- I enjoyed it quite a bit now but I'm guessing it'll be even better in a year or two. Definitely a step up from your standard Malbec. Taste Rating: 8; Cost Rating: 7; Overall Rating: 7.8. Recommended Buy.

    This is the 2008 Trapiche Broquel Malbec and, once again, it's another Malbec from the Mendoza Region of Argentina. .  The 2008 Vintage Trapiche Broquel Malbec pours a deep, dark brick red color that verges on being purple. Aromas are of oak, cocoa, and a bit of dark berries. Tasting brings a dry mouthful of toasted oak, cacao nibs, espresso, cloves, vanilla, hints of earthy mushrooms, and a subtle background of plums and prunes. Without a doubt this is one of the drier and oakier Malbecs I've had in quite some time. If I had tasted this blind, I may have thought it was an over-oaked California Zinfandel. It doesn't seem to fit the typical Malbec profile in that it's lacking the big, bold black fruit notes, instead having a rather subdued fruit profile with charred oak being the predominant flavor. I could see the oak in this easily overpowering a lot of food pairings. It may match well with a black peppercorn steak or grilled venison, but even then it may be just a touch too oaky for some. Maybe drink it alongside a dark Maduro cigar. Like many Malbecs, this is a wine that most people will find polarizing. Personally I'm kind of torn as to whether or not I really like it. This may be one of those wines that you really have to be in the right mood to drink.

    Several different vineyards contribute Malbec grapes to this wine, with an average age of 25 year old vines, altitudes ranging from 900 meters to 1200 meters above sea level, and mostly clay soils with boulders underneath. . . The Broquel Malbec, which can be found easily on many shelves in both Argentina and the United States, is another example of a solid, classic expression of Malbec from Mendoza. A deeper purple color with violet hues, plum and plum jam notes on the nose with hints of cocoa and coffee from the 15 months oak barrel treatment. I have to assume that the oak was 2nd use as the price of this wine is from 11.99 to 12.99 which would make it near impossible to have used new barrels. In addition, the oak notes are very subtle. On the palate this wine is soft and fruity on the front but there was a bit of sharpness on the finish.

    A fruit-forward wine, so much so that at first it tastes almost sweet, although with a 14.5% alcohol content there can’t be much sugar left in it! That high alcohol content also gives it a rather “hot” feel. It does seem to be well-structured and might age for a while, although whether or not that would improve it we can’t say, since we’ve already drunk it. 7.5/10.

    Along our culinary journey in Buenos Aires we paired some of the most incredible steaks with affordable local wines that were so full-bodied and interesting, we were shocked to hear the prices. One of our favorites was Trapiche Broquel Malbec. The 2009 vintage is a bold robust wine that will not disappoint. The ripe dark fruit flavors are complemented by hints of chocolate and spice with an extraordinary balance. A superb value at around $15.

    The Trapiche Broquel Malbec is a fuller-bodied wine [that their Oak Cask] with good flavor, a decent finish and excellent value.

    The grapes in the Trapiche Broquel Malbec come from several different vineyards around Mendoza. Trapiche owns over 2,500 acres of vineyards, so they have plenty to choose from for this wine. The nose on this Malbec has a nice aroma, although the intensity is slightly shy. Black cherry, blackberry, coffee and leather make up the bouquet. I love the complexity, I just wish it had a touch more intensity. The palate is big and juicy—loaded with ripe blackberry flavors and a splash of tart cherry. Rich, silky tannins give it a big mouth feel. It’s a little bit spicy mid-palate and the finish is lingering and fruity. This is a very good Malbec, well worth the 14 bucks.

  • Catena Zapata Alamos Selección Malbec, $13 - $20.
    (Don't confuse this with their basic bottling, listed farther above.)
         ($10.84 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Big peppery, floral, black cherry, tobacco leaf nose with a meaty, roasted mushroom, chocolate undercurrent. Ripe, round, rich, supple palate with good balance. Peppery, savoury, smoky, vanilla, chocolate, tobacco leaf, plum, cedar, barnyard flavours. A bit warm but ready to drink with attractive fruit.

    Selección is proving itself to be a consistent modern Malbec (the last four vintages have rated 89 or 90 points). This rendition shows graphite, inky berry notes and savory spice aromas such as cumin and cardamom. It’s rich and full bodied, with tobacco, coconut and baked plum and berry flavors. A smooth finish is neither tannic nor overpowering. 90 points.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (31 October 2012), 91 points.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (15 November 2008), 90 points.

    The 2010 Alamos Seleccion Malbec is from the San Carlos region in the Uco Valley, undergoing malolactic fermentation in oak barrels and raised for 12 months in French and American oak. It has a very elegant bouquet with maraschino cherries, blueberry, cassis and violets akin to a fragrant Syrah. The palate is full-bodied with grippy tannins, layers of mineral-rich dark berry fruit and a very poised, composed finish that delivers waves of blackberry and balsamic-tinged cherries. This is a very impressive Malbec with “chutzpah.”

    Round and fleshy, with enticing spice, blueberry, fig and boysenberry flavors backed by hints of fruitcake and melted licorice. Stays fresh and vivid on the finish, with a lingering mocha hint.

    The Alamos label is the “value line” from Nicolas Catena, whose wines have risen in popularity over the past 20 years. This particular Seleccion comes from 50% Catena Estate grapes and 50% sourced from local growers, all from higher elevation vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina. Dark purple in the glass and you can sense the use of new oak right away. Nice spice, smoke and black fruit qualities with good acidity and ripe but not aggressive tannins. Well balanced and structured but missing a finish. We paired it with a homemade vegetarian Bolognese sauce, and for $12 it’s hard to do much better. 2.5 Stars.

    If you enjoy wines with the sweet ripeness of black fruit, the type of wines that offer the kind of full-bodied intensity and depth of flavor that is right at home in a steakhouse, this malbec is one of the better representatives of the style.

    Rich and vinous, with ripe blackberry reduction, raspberry and dark plum notes backed by game and underbrush hints. Fine tannins and dark minerality emerges on the broad finish.

    Subdued ripe plum aroma. Dry and spicy cassis jam flavours, nice length, leathery and well-balanced tannins, very nice.

    A terrific Malbec from Bodega Catena Zapata with aromas of blackberry, violets, and spice. The flavors are nicely layered, and include black cherry, fennel, and more violets along with a pleasant leathery note. Satiny tannins and refreshing acidity round out this wine. Excellent QPR for this unusually complex bottling under $20.

French Malbecs:

  • Georges Vigouroux "Pigmentum" Malbec, $10 - $14.

    Some quotations and facts:

    The color deep dark black cherry red, you can barely see thru it. The nose is ripe blackberry, brownies in the oven, licorice and a touch of herbs and spice. This is a fruit forward, but lean, balanced Malbec. It tastes of ripe, juicy black and blue berry, dark chocolate, cold coffee and plum. The mid palate adds raspberry, cinnamon spice and a shot of herbs. The tannins are firm, but do not bite and the acidity is well balanced. The finish is full and long. The 2011 Pigmentum Malbec has the fresh rich flavor of an Argentinean Malbec, along with the lean, tight structure of French wines. It is reasonably complex for an inexpensive Red wine, it has that hard edge that Old School French wines can have, but the more modern fruit forward flavors bring a best of both worlds balance to the Pigmentum Malbec.

    Fleshy ripe blackberry and blackcurrant scents lead the way for stylish blackcurrant and black-cherry flavours; good weight, well-balanced acidity and solid but not overbearing tannic structure. A polished, modern Cahors that keeps faith with regional terroir. 3½ * (Very Good)

    ♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown), 90 points; #45 on 2012 "Top 100 Most Exciting Wines".

    Color - Deep purple with a dark red rim. Nose - Wet soil and unwashed lettuce (I know, sorry, this is what I get from this wine). Taste - This wine got me right from the first sip, actually from the first whiff. There is minimal or muted fruit in the flavor though there are hints of smoky dark berries on the mid-palate and finish. Mostly I taste the following: (in order) damp soil, lettuce and celery, wood smoke, berries, lots of minerals and an almost bitter aftertaste. This is all after decanting the wine for two hours and then again tasting a glass on day two and another glass on day three. There is a strong level of astringency and a lot of tannins. The wine is medium-to-full bodied with a quite long finish. It would probably do well to be paired with a decent steak, savory game dishes or sharp cheese. Overall, this wine is what you get when you don't pay attention when picking out a new wine. I am familiar with Argentinian Malbec and the flavors of their particular terroir. Until this wine I'd only read about French Malbecs and how they differed from their Argentinian brethren. I now have a first hand experience. This is not a wine I would drink often. It's not bad at all, in fact, it's pretty good just not my preference. I'll stick with the Argentinian Malbecs, but I would recommend this as a good wine with a decent QPR and if you are looking for a change of pace or want to be a little adventurous, try this out.

    You will find it has richer tannins and more minerality than those from Argentina, the main Malbec producer, and a much more structured complex taste. This is definitely more to my taste than some of the Argentinean Malbecs. This deep purple, full-flavored wine has rich floral and spice accents and a wonderful blend of dark berry fruit and plum flavors. It is slightly dry to the taste with just the perfect amount of acidity as well as a creamy texture that allows you to savor it to the last drop.

    Designed as a fruity vision of Malbec, this is a ripe, lightly wood aged wine, laden with berry fruits, soft tannins and an open texture. It’s ready to drink, a fine barbecue style, friendly wine. 85 points.

    Really appealing fresh raspberry perfume, supple, lively, lots of generous fruit, pure and open, with almonds on the finish. 4/5 *

    It is a deep purpley red and smells of cooked red fruits, the same smell as when someone is baking a pie or making jam with a variety of red fruits. The flavor is a blend of fruits without being a “fruit bomb”, the tannin keeps the wine structured. During the finish, I tasted a touch of plum, and overall this wine was typical of Malbec to me. People like Malbec because it is “smooth” or has no “bite”, and this wine matches that description. I enjoyed it by itself and with sharp cheddar cheese.

    When the prospect of winter looms, we want to drink wines like this one described by one CellarTracker as, "Inky dark purple, full bodied" with "lots of lush, juicy black fruits." Yes.

    This is a spicy quaffer, with a texture that starts smooth, then gets lively with acidity. I like the subtle charred quality.

    Now, for those of you who have been drinking nothing but Argentinian Malbec, heed this warning: French Malbec tastes different than what you’re used to. It’s earthier than its New World counterpart, and it has a lot more tannin. Argentinian Malbec by comparison is much more fruit forward, smelling and tasting somewhere in the realm of blackberry jam. French Malbec (and Pigmentum specifically) is far more aggressive on the palate. It has plenty of dark fruit character, but it’s got the cahoonas to stand up to red meat – which Argentinian Malbec typically doesn’t have. If you’re barbecuing (think steaks or even lamb) and you love Malbec, you should look in the French aisle of your favorite wine shop first. The 2009 Pigmentum Malbec is lovely. Loads of red and black fruit aromas, and enough mouthwatering tannin to make it a dream to pair with succulent cuts of red meat.

  • Clos Siguier, $12 - $17.

    Some quotations and facts:

    Clos Siguier is a wine that gives you a lovely warm, loved feeling inside. It is what I call a 'real' or honest wine, a wine which speaks strongly to its origins. Deeply colored, it has an attractive almost black core and deep crimson rim. On the palate, it manages to combine modernity with tradition. It is succulent, vibrant, and packed with juicy fruit, yet it also has a delightful earthy savoriness and framing tannic grip. . . Packed with dark plummy and wild bramble fruit, Clos Siguier is full bodied with a nicely rounded mouthfeel and solid grip. Notes of smoke, spice and tobacco leaf add extra dimensions of charm. It has a noticeable depth of flavor and good fruit concentration, reflecting the age of the vines (50-60 years I believe). It has a moderately long length and persistent earthy finish.

    Bright and youthful. Fruit-forward and friendly without being over-extracted. Enticing aromas of black & red fruits, black tea, and crushed rock emerge from the glass. Medium bodied, medium acidity, fine tannins. Excellent wine for the value, and very food-friendly.

    This wine is a blend of 95% Malbec and 5% Tannat sourced from 60-year-old vines. The fruit is fermented with indigenous yeasts. Alcohol 12.5%. There is a light perfumed nose with a singular berry aroma. In the mouth there was slightly tart, red fruit then dusty blue fruit. There were drying but slightly ripe tannins and a little juicy acidity. Easy to drink.

    This wine is an easy drinker, with many of us commenting on how smooth and round it was. It’s the perfect wine to open when you’re reading a good book or turning on a movie.

    Starving for an honest expression of Malbec (with a touch of Tannat)? I've neglected this Cahors from Giles Bley for a while, and while I wasn't looking it popped. Beautifully. It's gorgeous. It's a jungian dream, anima and animus, high-toned whistling in the clay. Intense and filled with silty, raspberry dreams while it digs deep into the limestone and clay Malbec hungry soil.

    Clos Siguier Cahors is a wine that demonstrates the new potential of this old wine growing area. Cahors has always been known for its inky black, tannic wines. However these organic wines show more finesse than most due to the rigorous vineyard practices employed by Giles Bley.

    Why no oak? “I don’t like the taste,” Bley answered simply, with a shy smile. It was hard to contradict him as we tasted through the wines. The tank samples of 2009 exploded with violets and bright fruit. The 2008 also had that same beautiful fresh flower and fruit profile, though it had calmed down after a year in cement tanks. The 2007 and 2006, tasted in bottle, were refreshing: silky, supple, aromatic; they just drank themselves. . . With this lighter touch and alcohol hitting around 12%, these are wines for early drinking rather than true vins de garde, right? Not judging by the older bottles we tasted. The 2003, with a little dried fruit on the nose from that extremely hot and sunny year, was balanced and drank very well. A bottle of 1998 felt a little funky coming out of the bottle, with white asparagus riding out intensely in the beginning before fading away and being replaced by tar, vegetal, mineral, leather, and mushroom flavors, and with acidity holding everything in place. . . If you need proof that bigger and more extracted does not necessarily mean more age worthy, Clos Siguier’s wines are for you.

    The wine was dark ruby with blue at the margins. The nose was somewhat closed for some tasters, but I sensed cedar, dark fruit with herbal notes. The flavors tasted of dark fruit with some tartness, black pepper and some tasters also noted a metallic flavor, maybe the iron oxide in the Cahors soil? The tannins were moderate in amount with a significant amount of acid. Some tasters noted a lingering metallic flavor. Overall, tasters thought this was a bright, alive tasting wine, though not overly complex. Most thought is was a good wine to drink now or within one year. This wine is made from grapes grown on the plateau or hilltop. This would be a nice summertime red wine (12% alc.). The next evening more red fruit was apparent and the acidity stood out a little more.

    A very juicy, fruity interpretation of Cahors showing bright berry fruit with a chewy edge. Reminiscent of carbonic maceration. Simple but attractive. Good/very good.

  • Château La Caminade "Mission La Caminade", $13 - $15.

    Some quotations and facts:

    This wine is made from 85% Auxerrois (Malbec) and 15% Merlot. Throughout the growing season green harvesting and leaf thinning are practiced to insure low yields and healthy grapes. The varieties are vinified separately with fairly long macerations and remain in stainless steel tanks or cement vats for at least 18 months before bottling. The style is one of suppleness and charm and the wine does not require cellaring.

    Medium garnet in the glass, smoked meats coupled with cassis and black cherry on the nose, a medium-bodied wine, in the mouth the wine has a supple leathery quality, with some stony minerality that gives way to more cassis and black cherry notes with a dusty finish.

    A soft, juicy style of wine. It’s made for early drinking, with light tannins, flavors of milk chocolate, red berries and only a hint of texture. There is a final rather rustic character. 85 points.

    Mission la Caminade’s 2007 blend of Malbec and Merlot reflects this Cahorsin obstinacy but bends to more modern trends. First, the label flaunts “MALBEC – MERLOT”. French pride in place would prefer that region -not grape- says enough on a label. If it’s Cahors and red, you should expect a rich, tannic blend of mostly malbec supported by merlot and tannat. Hell, natives don’t even call the grape malbec (that’s the downstream competition in Bordeaux). Instead, malbec is known as auxerrois. Yet Caminade’s 2007 tastes modern, balanced and fruit driven. Plum and berries dominate. It lacks the traditional tannic edge or gaminess found in Cahors such as Clos la Coutale’s 2008. Yet Caminade is not any less interesting. It reflects French tightrope walking. It wants to please palates trained on Argentina, while reminding them that fruit isn’t everything, with its line of pepper and mineral.

    While Argentina is arguably the most well-known region for Malbec, one must remember where this varietal came from, and thats France. However, I find most French malbecs to be incredibly different in their own right. This is one of those wines where I simply wanted to sit and enjoy its nose. Such strong fruit... very enjoyable. Unfortunately, my love of this wine faded as I partook of it. Its incredibly too acidic and astringent. Very little sweetness or fruit on the palate. It had 13% alcohol and I believe was around $10. Only for the sake of its pleasant nose that it gets into the low 80s, and I would still pass if I had a possible second encounter.

    This young 85% Malbec, 15% Merlot blend requires a bit of planning. With 2 hours of decanting you will be rewarded with blackberry, black cherry, and plum fruit with white and black pepper, licorice and firm tannins. Young and bold, weren’t we all?

    This is a juicy wine that simply brought a smile to my face; the smile broadened with every sip, especially since I couldn’t stop sipping.

    Another great bargain, a good table wine for roasted chicken or something off the grill.

  • Clos La Coutale, $13 - $18.

    Some quotations and facts:

    Clos La Coutale wines, which are 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot, are exceptional. The 2011 Clos La Coutale has a lively attack, a very ripe plum and cherry nose, a delicious, dark and meaty, coffee-licorice-peppery mouth, and a distinctive, if somewhat brief, dark chocolate finish. It’s almost as if someone had taken a rich stew and infused it with a cherry compote, but the wine’s fresh, spicy minerality makes it work, holding it all in delightful tension. It’s easy to see why The Wine Spectator named Clos La Coutale one of the world’s 100 best wines in 2009.

    There’s a fierce punchiness about this wine; it’s sharp and light, with an aggressive bouquet and a taut, green flavour. It’s austere, tannic but warm. This is a bottle to stand upon a red gingham-checked tablecloth, to pour into Duralex tumblers, to recork and carry to a corner of a field for a lunch of bread and cheese. The label even has an aged, brownish hue, as if it’s been cured with tobacco smoke, like the ceiling in one of those French rural bars. .  A wine like Cahors has character, a simple authenticity, which is enormously enjoyable.

    This is an example of what is old is new again. .  The color is very dark, almost inky, with mineral aromas and dark fruit. This example from Clos la Coutale has a small amount of Merlot to add fleshiness and complexity. Nonetheless, it is powerful, especially in its youth. The palate is not rough, but not yet completely smooth. The acidity was medium with medium body, almost full-bodied. Dark cherry, berry, and exotic minerality is appreciated. Nicely balanced, moderately complex, medium to long finish, it is a very versatile wine, enjoyable with many different hearty foods. It can be consumed on its own, but pairs well with food. It is more elegant and finessed than many Mendoza [Argentine] expressions of Malbec, but this is a matter of preference.

    My old adversary Malbec and I tried to reconcile our differences recently through this bottle of Cahors, however, the dispute continues. I’ve found very few Malbec’s during my tenure as a Sommelier that I can truly relate to and enjoy. Unfortunately, this particular production did not ease my qualms with the varietal. Despite my ill outlook on Malbec, I’ll be as unbiased as possible. I found the Clos La Coutale Malbec to be slightly out of balance with tart red fruit on the front of the palate, racing acidity on the mid-palate, and a quick finish that left my tongue feeling nothing short of violated. The aroma fell pretty short as well, there were some fun earth tones at first, subtle notes of forest floor and dry cedar, but nothing to fragrantly lasting. Like most characteristics of this wine, the flavor or aroma profiles not withstanding, the qualities seemed to give way to tart acidity rather quickly. I suppose this wine’s one saving grace was it’s ability to pair slightly well with food. I allowed the wine to open and breathe for about an hour before drinking the Malbec with cut of Flat Iron Steak. The bloody flavors and meat seemed to integrate fairly well with the earth tones and high acid of the Malbec, but the finish was rather flat and boring.

    From the other place where Malbec grows free and is celebrated, Cahors in Southwestern France, comes a Malbec unlike any you’ve tried from the warm climes of Argentina. Dark, inky fruit of black cherry and blackberry. Tar and brown tobacco leaf. Smooth tannins with some serious alcohol and relatively tame acidity. Has a flowery aroma as well as a slight (odd) whiff of dill pickle. Hmm…the heartiest Malbec I’ve wrapped my tongue around. At $13, it’s affordable enough just to try it for its uniqueness. Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

    I’ve been a big Cahors fan for several years, but due to lack of a decent selection locally, I got my Malbec fix from Argentina the last few years. I always loved the big and tannic 100% Malbecs from Cahors. Unfortunately, I was in the minority. Over the last several years, a lot of the wineries in the region have begun blending in varying amounts of Merlot to tame the tannins and allow for earlier drinking. This one is 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot. I took the plunge on this one purely due to the #76 ranking in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of 2009 and the killer price. .  The wine is a dark, inky purple color. On the deep and dark nose there are blackberries, fresh ground espresso, Asian spices, dark chocolate, black cherry, and some nice earthiness. The wine is medium body with fairly solid, ripe tannins and zippy acidity. Not as big and bold on the palate as the nose led me to expect, it is much more restrained and laid back. There are nice fruit and spice flavors on the palate with the acidity brightening it up considerably. In the background some dark chocolate, walnut, and earthiness add nice depth. Decent length on the finish, where I wish it had a bit more length and complexity. All in all, very nice for the price, but not what the nose lead me to expect. (88 pts)

    Little oak is used in the ageing process, so the emphasis is very much on fruit. This is a well-constructed wine. Clos La Coutale can be drunk young thanks to its good fruit, but has great aging potential.

    As with all "Cahors" this wine is predominately produced from Côt (Malbec), which forms 70% of this wine, which is joined in this case by 15% each of Merlot and Tannat. Typical of the region the wine has an inky black colour with a nose full of black fruits. On the palate the fruit comes through with a fresh vanilla finish and nicely rounded tannins. This is a wine that will comfortably age for another 5-7 years, but which is equally drinkable now.

    This dark, reddish-purple wine has intense aromas of ripe, red fruit, cardamom, and black licorice. The palate is young and rustic with firm tannins. There are tastes of black licorice, sage, pepper, and hints of dark berries. Bold yet balanced, this wine will only improve with time! My Wine Rating – A-

  • Château du Cèdre "Cèdre Heritage", $13 - $19.

    Some quotations and facts:

    It is medium ruby in colour with aromas of floral, darker fruit and a hint of savoury. It is dry with medium acidity and tannins – quite approachable. It is medium-bodied with flavours of dark cherry, berry and hints of spice.

    The entry level red is 98% Malbec in this vintage, the rest Merlot. It is made with fruit supplied by six growers, 80% of it organically grown. It has an easy and charming soft, earthy black fruit nose, but a sense of being fresh and crisp too. On the palate there is spice, and it is has a serious, sour cherry and black fruit bite. Very enjoyable, a little rustic and in need of food. 86-87/100.

    The color is deep, dark purple with a cherry halo. The nose is sour cherry, vanilla, gingerbread spice and Sambuca. This Malbec starts off with a velvety mouthfeel that soon transitions to rich juicy fresh fruit and spice. It starts with blackberry, soft and smooth, then tart cranberry and curry spice kick in. The mid palate adds strawberries in cream, extracted licorice, raisin spice and plum. The tannins are well integrated into the body of the wine. The finish is fairly vibrant and long. This is a Malbec with character, tons of flavor and textures, sweet, tart, astringent, the Cedre Heritage Malbec does not hold back anything. .  A fan of Argentinean Malbec should try the Cedre Heritage to experience the differences, there is definitely more of some things and less of others, but with many similarities. The Cedre Heritage Malbec is a very good wine.

    The wine is purple and young with a pronounced nose of plum and a really nice layer of something else I can't peg. The palate is young and closed and tight and a bit tannic as well as flat. But this should all take care of itself with some breathing not to mention some more bottle age. Allowing it a couple hours to air out and warm up a bit (it was at cellar temperature of 55 degrees F.) dried cherries are front and center in the bouquet with some pepper on the palate with some stingy fruit. This wine has loads of potential but it is just too immature. Raise a glass and lay another one down.

    A fruit-driven wine, young and fresh, its lively red berry fruits, touched lightly by tannins and acidity. Delicious, fruity wine. 87 points.

    The nose combines the rugged side of wine-love, with horse blanket, cheese and ripe berry fruit. In the mouth the wine is quite tannic and strongly reminiscent of the horse, certainly too much so for many drinkers. This is the negociant wine from the famous estate.

    I really enjoyed this. Not very familiar with French Malbec, but this was vastly different than the Argentine (or California) blueberry oakshakes that are too common. :lol: Dark ruby in color...not a "black wine" in any way. Started out with a wonderful nose: sour red plum, earth, spice, green apple!!!!, licorice, black cherry? Quite tight, though, and rather tart in character, with no obvious tannins. Over the hour, however, the Cedre really opened up, offering up quite a complex wine for such a modestly priced bottle, with layers of earth, spce, licorice, tobacco???, and sour red plum verging on black plum by the last glass. I really enjoyed this bottle quite a bit and would buy more...especially given the reasonable price.

    Everyone knows the more recent craze over Malbec from Argentina. Now get a taste of Malbec from the country where it arguably made its mark in the wine world. South West France, in and around the town of Cahors, Malbec has reigned king dating back prior to the to the 18th Century. In Cahors, Malbec isblended with small amounts of Merlot (as it is in the Chateau Du Cedre) and Tannat. Stylistically, Cahors takes on a more subtle and reserved characteristic thanthe bold, full bodied, and often oak driven Argentine Malbecs. Here we get some nice dark fruits with hints of spice and a balanced acidity that make it a great food wine.

  • Fabien Jouves Mas del Perie "Les Escures", $16 - $21.

    Some quotations and facts:

    Malbec, in its traditionally rowdy guise. While southwest French wines can be affordable, "great" is a tougher goal; their charms are more rustic. But I discovered Fabien Jouves and his quality-minded work at Périé a few years ago (http://is.gd/RPNPAI), a welcome antidote to my skepticism about Cahors and its striving cult of Malbec. Escures is that grape in unadorned, concrete-aged form - full of fresh flowers and muzzy earth, unapologetic tannin and tart plum. Let it unwind in your glass.

    Super dark wine notes of blueberry, mushroom, hint of chile Ancho, and lavender. Rustic scents of leather, sage and wood pile. 100% organic malbec. Think this is the Malbec that everyone wants to enjoy but never ends up buying. A gorgeous wine.

    After racing through a number of heavily-oaked, tannic wines from many producers lined-up in the Espace Valentré, Malbec Days’ central venue (with no air conditioning in unseasonably hot weather), bottlings by Fabien Jouves, at Mas del Périé, were like a breath of fresh air. Jouves’s approach is itself refreshing, as his four bottlings are designed first and foremost in relation to specific parcels—and different soils—on his family’s property. Les Escures 2008, from white clay and gravel soils, was fruity and spicy with nice acidity, a clean expression of the grape and place, totally un-oaked.

    Forward and fruity, this is already developing its black plum fruit. The wine has a ripe, juicy and seemingly sweet character. With its supporting tannins, this should be ready to drink in 1–2 years. 89 points.

    Another top “freakout” moment of 2011. The first time I tried this wine, it was the 2008 vintage, and I literally almost fell out of my chair it was so good. Unfortunately, a restaurant in Greenville bought it all before we had a chance to buy it. So I waited. The 2009 is jut as good, and we scored a decent amount. I love French Malbec, and this one is such a good value, it’s almost silly. So flooded is the market right now with $12-14 Argentine Malbecs, that this one really is really in a class of its own. A God among insects, if you will. Deep and dark, with hefty fruit, yet a pleasant balance of acid that keep it from being weighed down or flabby. A nose of blackberry liqueur and something vaguely metallic, plus a distinctly French amount of terroir make this one a winner. I forced this on almost everyone that walked in the door. It’s been a staff favorite for some time, too. Come give ‘er a whirl.

    Spicy, pastry nose with blueberries on a honeyed, ripe fruit style with toasty, smoky oak. 3/5 *

    [C]onsidering these sturdy, malbec reds from the south-west of France used to be known as “black wines” [this one] was remarkably elegant and light on its feet.

    [T]he word "perie" is Gascon for "rock" and signifies the rocky soil of the terrasses in this estate; it's also a very suitable name for this rock-solid iteration of Cahors; powerful, intense, dense, structured tight as a drum; cool menthol and eucalyptus on an astonishing long finish; wine with power and density and built for the long haul.

For a Splurge

For a Cahors Malbec splurge, it would be hard to do much better than the Chateau du Cèdre Cahors Le Cèdre, priced at about $39 at retail. Correspondingly, for an Argentine Malbec splurge, it would be hard to do much better than the Catena Zapata "Catena Alta" Malbec, priced from about $39 to $60 at retail.

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