Argentine Malbec

Up or down? Argentine Malbec is at an inflection point.

 


In yesterday’s Argentine Wine 101 article I gave a brief rundown as to the wheres, whys and whos of Argentine malbec, but offered only a little in the way of whats. Today I can fix that with a modest report on some Malbec that is in the marketplace today. In many ways this selection is the same sort of selection that has been available for several years now, though I do see some changes in the making.
The first and most obvious change is in the pricing of these wines. While the price increases have been relatively slow it seems as though several of these wines have jumped up about 30% or more at retail over the past five years or so. What was a $10 wine has become a $13 to $15 wine. Whether they still represent value or not depends on the preferences of the consumer and what other wines out there are offering at these price points, but it is safe to say that these wines are not exactly the values they once were.

The wines themselves have also changed a little, or should I say more correctly that the range of wines represented by Argentine Malbec has changed. It has broadened, which is a relief. For several years, particularly towards the end of the last decade, Argentine Malbec seemed to be following the trajectory of Australian Shiraz. the wines were getting bigger, and sweeter, and were garnering more critic’s points, but they weren’t really getting better or more interesting for that matter. In fact they were getting less interesting and less food friendly to boot. Chasing points is a recipe for disaster, especially chasing points at a modest price level.
 
It’s one thing if you don’t have a lot of wine to sell, and the wine that you do sell is too expensive to drink except by people who have to lord the unfathomable quality of their unobtainable wines over you; lest they look like dopes for ponying up the dough for them. With everyday wines that ordinary people drink you run the danger of losing what makes your wine distinctive if you simply follow the herd. What will be a success in the first years will quickly turn into the great equalizer and leave people searching for the least expensive 90pt Malbec after all the wines taste essentially the same.
 
It seems that this is no longer the case, with two distinct camps of Malbec emerging in the marketplace. One the one hand you have the powerful and plump Malbec, easy going, fruity and ripe, it finds many admirers. On the other hand there are wines like the Cuarto Dominio Chento, Las Moras Malbec Reserve, and the Graffigna Malbec Centenario Reserve  all of which seem to trade in some of the power you can get with Malbec for more complexity and a little bit of stemmy herbaceousness which makes these wines superb partners for food. 
 
The strategy, as far as there is one, of producing both styles of wines under the banner Argentine Malbec is of course a brilliant one. The masses are happy to have their wines, affordable and intense, while those looking for more complexity and less sheer mass can also turn to Argentina for an enjoyable Malbec. There is also the added bonus of keeping the critics at bay, because we do love to go around building regions up and then bashing them for delivering what their public wants and has grown accustomed to. 
 
The bottom line here, beyond ascribing motive to where there is probably none, is that Argentina is a diverse country. Even with Malbec, and frankly with the monetary gain to be had with one particular model of Malbec, kudos to them for producing a range of style. We, the collective wine drinking community, are ready to move to the second phase of exploration with Malbec. Where we move beyond broad conceptions of style and typicity and begin to better understand the nuance and complexity that springs from the varied landscape that gives birth to Argentina’s undisputed flagship wine: Malbec. 
 

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Top Argentine Malbec tasted 10/13

1.
Bodega Mendel Malbec Mendoza (2010)
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2.
Angulo Innocenti Malbec la Consulta (2011)
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3.
Bodega Cuarto Dominio Malbec (2009)
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4.
Bodega Cuarto Dominio Chento Malbec (2010)
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5.
Mora Negra Valle de Pedernal (2009)
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6.
Finca las Moras Malbec Black Label (2010)
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7.
Intis Malbec. las Moras (2010)
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8.
Graffigna Centenario Reserve Malbec (2010)
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9.
Bodega Cuarto Dominio Malbec Tolentino (2011)
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10.
Alamos Malbec Wines Imported South American (2010)
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Comments

  • Snooth User: chrisc
    30334 88

    Maipe Malbec 2012 and Maipe Malbec Reserve 2012

    Oct 22, 2013 at 12:29 PM


  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 7,028

    Wow, one of these wine review articles to which I can add a semi-related comment. So many times these articles have wines that are pretty hard to find in retail stores--and I live in a pretty big metropolis. However, last spring my brother-in-law gave me a bottle of the 2007 Mora Negra that a friend had brought back from Argentina. You reviewed 2009 version, but your comments were similar, although much more elegant, to my notes on the 2007.

    Oct 22, 2013 at 6:37 PM


  • Snooth User: A tineo
    1383250 23

    I believe that are others high quality malbecs from wineries like: O.Fournier, Carmelo Patti, Achaval Ferrer...I will be glad with you commet this, because this wines are my favorites. Tks,

    Oct 22, 2013 at 7:41 PM


  • it´s really Interesting to see ... thank you it's well done :)
    http://www.lacksokning.com/leak-det...

    Oct 23, 2013 at 1:21 AM


  • Snooth User: LaraMza
    1395602 25

    Thank you so much for your article, it's very interesting I just was wondering where did you get those prices, I mean, when I go to the supermarket or to a wine boutique store, is impossible to find such a low prices. Besides, nowadays I will not buy a wine lower than $40 that is EUR 5. In France to ensure you are buying a good (not outstanding) wine you have to spend around EUR 12 - 20, preferible with a gold or silver prize won by the cepage. If you are demanding you will spend more.
    I like good wines, I also take the time for discovering new propositions and I'm demanding with quality. Of course I like to share it with family and friends.

    Nov 04, 2013 at 3:09 PM


  • Snooth User: LaraMza
    1395602 25

    I think I made a mistake if you are talking in USD prices.

    Nov 04, 2013 at 3:20 PM


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