Wine Talk

Snooth User: spikedc

Argentinian Wine

Posted by spikedc, Jan 8, 2011.

Never tried any Malbec but i have been hearing good things about Argentinian wine. Labels like Susana Balbo, Alamos and Altos Las Hormigas are said to be good for a reasonable price tag.

Most of the wine i have at the moment is from Spain, Australia and South Africa, (Mostly Reds, Shiraz & Cabs) maybe i should give Malbec a go!

Any Argentinian experts out there ?


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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Jan 8, 2011.

The only Argentine Malbec I much care for is Mendel.  Is has better acid than many and isn't so fruity. 

Reply by MarioRobles, Jan 8, 2011.

as much as (arguably) Australia = Shiraz, New Zealand = Sauvignon Blanc, Spain = Tempranillo and Chile = Carmenere... Argentina = Malbec...

if you haven't tasted Malbec from Argentina, you haven't tasted Malbec at all... leave it like that!

as for brands, Finca Flichman, Achaval Ferrer, Doña Paula, Felipe Rutini, Luigi Bosca... these are only some of the renowned wineries... 

Good Luck! 

Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Jan 8, 2011.

Taste is subjective, of course, Mario, but I vastly prefer Cahors.

Reply by Degrandcru, Jan 8, 2011.

I agree with GDD, but at least down here in Mexico I pay at least $60 for a decent bottle of Cahors (and there is very little choice), while for $20 I get a good bottle of Argentinian Malbec.

Stay away from the very cheap ones though, there are many Malbecs now starting at $5, but those are mostly undrinkable.

I had a Salentein 2005 Malbec Reserva today, which is in the $20 range and it was excellent with my steak. I also like the Norton Reserva.

Reply by GregT, Jan 9, 2011.

Spike - all of those you mentioned are fine if you can find them in the UK.  Some of the bigger companies, like Achaval Ferrer, have several lines ranging from the really cheap to quite expensive.  Dona Paula is another one - their lowest end isn't all that great at all but their next step up is very nice.  At the lowest end, they're all pretty generic. People love oak with Malbec and a lot of them are made with oak chips to save money. If you move a step up, into the range around $20, you start finding more interesting wines.

In fact, Bonarda was more widely planted than Malbec until very recently but I think it's been overtaken by the overwhelming popularity of Malbec.  As far as whether or not Cahors does a better job, well that's of course subjective but remember that Cahors improved its wines dramatically as the Argentines showed that Malbec needn't be tough and tannic. The problem w Argentina is that most of the wines listed are from the Mendoza region, which is quite large, but it's exploded in response to the export opportunities and much the same as Barossa Valley or even Napa, a predominant style has pretty much defined Argentine Malbec these days - big, ripe, dark, oaky.  That's fine, but Argentina is pretty big and different areas produce different qualities.  Plus, as I mentioned, they do other red grapes and blends in the country too - Tempranillo, Bonarda, Syrah, Sangiovese, and of course Cab, among others, including Carmenere.

Chile and Carmenere?  They're trying to develop some kind of signature variety, having seen the success of Argentina with Malbec, but they haven't quite made the reflex connection yet.  They're still selling a lot of cheap Cabs and Merlots and make pretty good Syrah and make some pretty good whites.  If I were there, I'd explore different white grapes.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 9, 2011.

I really like the Chilean Carmenere I have had and I hope it succeeds, but not so much that it becomes like Malbec from Argentina.  I think the first step in getting a signature varietal on the map is to have good word of mouth, so Carmenere is still very good at a good price.  It's trying to get "idea leaders" to talk it up a bit. But then it will be turned to mass marketing as it gains traction, and the wine will be made for that market.  Meaning the good Carmenere will stop being a value wine, and will cost more, and inexpensive Carmenere will be big, fruity, oaky.

My own feeling about Argentinian Malbec is that either I don't like it much, for the reasons that GDD and GregT cite--like a lot of Cali Merlot, too soft, too fruity, then they oak it up--or I missed the window when it was gaining that word of mouth traction and will have to spend a lot to find a bottle I like.  Even the bottles I have tasted in the $20+ range just did not do anything for me. 

At an engagement party I attended a while back, they served Norton Reserva Malbec--the groom is a neophyte wine fancier.  Granted, they were serving a large group, but this is a very popular and decently rated wine.  And I just didn't get it.  (Sorry, degrandcru.) Totally left me cold.

The groom must have thought something of it.  The couple could have honeymooned anywhere. I think the bride favored a safari in Africa, and that would land you close enough to Stellenbosch and the other prime wine areas of SA.  But they went to Argentina, and I know he had wine shipped back. 

(They had a great selection of wine at the wedding, although I mostly got mine from the bar instead of what the caterer was serving. The actual wedding was at Beaulieu, in the area where the managers and employees live.  If you haven't been there, get invited to an event.  It's the only way you can see it.)

Plainly I am going to have to get some bottles from Cahors--an experience I have so far missed--and see what else can be done with the varietal.  I think if you like what I considered the worst kinds of Cali wines--soft as mush merlots and over oaked cabs--then maybe Argentinian malbec is for you.  I am sure there are exceptions but I can't spend more time wading through them.  (I write this having finished an open bottle of malbec--Naiara, the supposedly best Malbec in the world for under $10--last night.  And it was a little better than when I opened it, but still not worthy of even being on my daily drinker list.)

GregT as always makes the point that the French sometimes learn positively from these things to make their wines a bit more approachable. 

Reply by dmcker, Jan 9, 2011.

Cahors is IMHO the best for Malbec, and even the Loire is interesting ('Cot', there). Argentina not so much, since they're emulating North American sodapop stylings. I'm finding 3 or 4 interesting Chileans (even cab blends, Greg) to every interesting Argentine. But that's out of 10 or so each, and I'm trying to be selective in the first place. Cahors, 2 out of 3 or at the most 4....

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Jan 9, 2011.

Not much straight Malbec here, a little is planted for blending, mainly with Cabernet

I would not recommend worrying too much about any Malbec from our neck of the woods

Reply by ama il vino, Jan 10, 2011.

I am not a Malbec fan but have a co-worker who is mad for the stuff. His go to bottle is Kaiken Ultra Malbec it's under 25.00 from what he said.

Reply by fbk1, Jan 10, 2011.

There are some fantastic Malbecs from Argentina, each producer representing his own style and terroir.  Malbec from Argentina is very different from France and even Chile. French Malbecs are very earthy, not fruit forward and not as balanced as those from Argentina. It has found its home in Argentina where it loves the hot days, cool nights and altitude.  In fact the most celebrated area now is the Uco valley, with very extreme temperatures, and high altitude.   Malbecs from Mendoza such as Trapiche offer bold, intense, balanced style wines with soft, ripe tannins, that are true to their tipicity. Malbecs from Argentina are some of the best values in the wine business today, offering great quality wine for not a lot of money.  Even on the high end, like the Trapiche Single Vineyard Malbec series, you don't have to pay a lot to get over 90 point rated wines.  

Another area to look for is Salta, the Cafayate Valley.  This is the highest growing region in the world with vines starting at 6,000 feet and going up to 9,000 feet.  Look for the wines of Michel Torino, the wines have intense color and perfume from the altitude and big difference in temperatures.

Reply by dmcker, Jan 10, 2011.

Thanks for the regional pointers, fbk1. Am curious what you mean by 'balanced' in the statement "French Malbecs are very earthy, not fruit forward and not as balanced as those from Argentina"

Reply by fbk1, Jan 10, 2011.

By balance I mean the ratio of fruit to acid, not one over powers the other.  French Malbecs do not have the opportunity to ripen fully which leads to a more acidic wine.  The heat and sun of Argentina allow the grapes to mature, and ripen, while the cool nights stop the heating and ripening process at night.  This heating and cooling leads to a wine that is better balanced from fruit to acid.  A grape that heats too long during the day and does not have the cooling factor at night will be very rich and heavy in fruit, and light on acid.  A grape that does not have the chance to ripen to it's full fruit potential will have more acid and more greenish notes.

Hope that helps.

Reply by JonDerry, Jan 10, 2011.

It's very difficult to compete with Argentine Malbecs as they have some amazing growing conditions for the grape.  In fact, you could argue that Malbec grown elsewhere is a completely different type and style of wine. 

Will look for some of the producers I tried at a tasting last month, but there was some very good stuff. 

Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Jan 10, 2011.

Of course Malbec grown anywhere else is a completely different type and style of wine.  The same is true for every grape being grown in various locations (French v. CA Chard, German v. Australian Riesling, etc.). 

Terroir is of utmost importance.

Reply by dmcker, Jan 10, 2011.

Unfortunately, fbk1, the malbecs from Argentina I've had suffer a bit in the acid and tannin department and definitely fall on the fruitforward, simplistic side. Probably a case of not finding the right ones yet, but I'll stand by my earlier statement about the flavor and balance profiles that exporters think will work, at least in North America.

Plenty of balanced and ageable malbecs out of Cahors, so I suggest you try some more from there. I've posted a (very) few amongst my wines.

Reply by GregT, Jan 10, 2011.

D - you're probably right but remember, a lot of the Malbecs from Argentina are acidified and supe- oaked, at least on the lower tiers.  Among other things, Malbec is prone to mold, which is why it was abandoned in Bordeaux where it was  once the dominant grape, but the high elevations and relentless sun of Mendoza make the mold question irrelevant. 

The elevation also causes big diurnal swings, which to a degree, retains natural acidity.  But for the export market, people like the grapes really ripe. So what to do when the natural acidity is insufficient?  Acidify.

The wines from Salta are different from those coming from Mendoza, and they're worth exploring if you can find some better versions down your way.  It's closer to the equator but also much higher in elevation - higher than any vineyards anywhere in Europe.  That combination is obviously going to produce something unique again.  Malbec there tends to be lighter in body and more perfumed than that from Mendoza, and vastly different from anything in France.

Mendoza is a big place too, and the elevation scan vary significantly, depending on where you are.

I rarely find myself in agreement with the French approach, but I think if people focused less on the grape and more on the wine, it would be fairer. The conditions in western Argentina and most of France are so different, it's almost unfair to compare the wines based on the grape variety.

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Jan 11, 2011.

It is almost the debate had on all new world v old world wine.

Fruit v terroir - which is far too simplistic when talking about any wine

The more sun comes out and ripens the grapes the wine will be more fruit driven than if it comes out less.

The riper the fruit the less dominant the terroir generally is but it is still quite detectable if terroir is the objective of the winemaking team.

Many Australian Wines are multi-regional blends which are designed to take the best fruit from that available to make a very good fruit driven wine.  Well made these wines can have all the complexity and balance of single vineyard wines but they do not represent a particular terroir.

Is this good or bad, I am totally indifferent to the argument as too which is best as I believe a great wine is a great wine and crap is crap.

Some grapes such as pinot noir are great at reflecting the terroir of the vineyard or region other such as shiraz are less reflective of terrior and far more about fruit.  Yes I am generalising and yes there is exceptions.

The extremes of excessively tannic v ultraripe fruit produce wines I do not generally like but when both philosophies get the balance right you get great wines.

Which is best is nothing more than personal taste rather than an objective measurable outcome.  I respect those who believe terroir is the ultimate and those who fight the fruit battle but for me it is the individual wine that I rate not the philosophy

Reply by GregT, Jan 11, 2011.

Stephen - I'm not sure I agree that the riper the fruit, the less dominant the terroir. 

In fact, I like you and don't want to pick an argument with you but frankly, I think that's a complete load of crap that is frequently unloaded by constipated blowhards who suddenly find themselves with a case of diahrrea.

And honestly, I'm NOT talking about you - you've demonstrated that you're quite open-minded about things so please don't take this as directed to you.

The people who make that claim will also frequently go  on about some super acidic wine from the Loire or Jura or Burgenland or Tyrol or some other appellation du jour.   They're more interested in projecting an image than in enjoying wine.

If I pick my grapes on Sunday, they reflect my terroir, but if I let them hang until next Saturday, that's obscured?????  WTF kind of thinking is that?  That sun that ripened the hell out of my grapes?  I didn't import it from somewhere.  And I didn't chaptelize my wine either!  That sun is in fact EXACTLY what makes my terroir what it is. 

Much of Australia is hot. The south of France is hot.  The south of Spain is hot.  The south of Italy is hot.  The oldest winery ever found is 6000 years old and it was found in Armenia.  Guess what?  That's hot. 

So those super ripe wines from Barossa?  Where else on earth could they have come from?  Normandy?  Nope, they're reflecting their terroir.

And don't buy that crap about Pinot Noir reflecting its terroir more than Syrah either.  NO grape reflects its terroir more than others.  Most PN is crap frankly and there's no reason to excuse it because in some way it's supposed to be a superior grape.  It isn't by any stretch, unless you want to be brainwashed by some douchebag who has no idea what he or she is talking about.

Sorry for the rant and again, none of it is directed at you so much as the general BS of the wine world. 


Reply by Stephen Harvey, Jan 11, 2011.


No offence taken, I am in agreement of your basic tenet of the BS of the argument around terroir.

What I was trying to demonstrate is that teroir is often an excuse used by people who seem to think that underripe excessively tannic overextracted wines can be justified as legitimate as they reflect terroir and that is important.  Jefford has used this argument to justify why some crappy village red wine from the south of France is a far more legitimate and interesting wine than an extremely enjoyable fruit driven multi vineyard barossa red made with excellent balance bewteen fruit acid and tannin, because it reflects its terroir and therefire you can better understand and appreciate the legitimacy of the wine.

This type of BS defies any rational human beings definition of logic.  His hyphothesis is that an awful wine the purports to represent terroir is better than great wine that does not.

This is the irrational garbage that us in the new world have to put up with from people who can never accept something from the NW could possible be considered better than the OW.

The only point I do think I slightly disagree with you and only to the extent of degree is that I think that where fruit is less dominant then other factors come through such as winemaker input, additives, and to a degree other factors which may represent the broader definition of terroir.  This is why I tend to  believe PN is more impacted by other factors as its often not fruit driven, particularly in Burgundy. But I can be swayed that I am giving the terroirist too much latitude.

Also I think terroir is a component of a wine which deserves to be recognised, but not to the exclusion of other factors

Unfortunately too many people have been sucked into marketing arguments rather than objective debate on wine quality and enjoyment.  In particular, given most blind competitions I have seen where so called experts actually allow their judgments to be viewed publically, most have a much less than perfect hit rate on picking terroir.

May the BS Busters never be discouraged from challenging the wine worlds amazing ability to create enough verbal manure to reforrest the Amazon basin

Reply by JonDerry, Jan 12, 2011.

Thanks for weighing in Greg, that's what I was trying to get at with the growing conditions in Argentina being ideal for Malbec but wasn't exactly sure of the specifics.

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