Argentina’s Best Reds for $10 to $20
Argentina’s red wines are one of the great success stories of the past few years—and for good reason. When it comes to bottles that cost between $10 and $20, Argentina’s reds, notably its signature grape, Malbec, provide remarkable depth of flavor and complexity. The Malbecs tend toward a lush, berry-rich pepperiness; the Syrahs offer dark, brooding fruit and smoke or game notes; and the Cabernet Sauvignons tend to combine powerful cassis flavors with a hint of bell pepper. They are wines that pair extremely well with the robust foods of winter: juicy roasts, rare steaks, braised lamb shanks and hearty stews. Most of Argentina’s best reds come from one region: Mendoza, a high plateau on the western edge of the country, in the shadow of the Andes. It’s several thousand miles south of the United States, but a short trip when you travel by corkscrew.
2007 Clos de la Siete ($16)
French superstar consultant Michel Rolland crafts this powerful red from Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Black-purple in hue and lush with blackberry flavor, it comes from the Tunuyán Valley, south of the city of Mendoza.
Other Notable Wines
2006 O. Fournier Urban Uco Malbec ($10)
Malbec’s peppery, spicy side shows in this bottling from a Spanish family, the Gil-Fourniers, that makes wine in both Mendoza and Spain’s Ribera del Duero.
2007 Finca El Portillo Malbec ($11)
Warmly spicy and a pleasure to drink, this black-fruited wine will convert Malbec doubters. El Portillo gets grapes from high-altitude vineyards—up to 5,500 feet—explaining the intense flavors.
2007 Finca La Linda Tempranillo ($11)
Sweet oak and dark cherry round out this Argentinean version of Spain’s most famous red grape variety. Finca La Linda is an affordable label from the well-known Luigi Bosca winery.
2007 Trumpeter Malbec-Syrah ($11)
The Rutini family makes several good-quality wines under this label. In ’07, the best is this lively red blend, which resolves into an evocative gamey note.
2007 Alamos Bonarda ($12)
The easygoing Bonarda grape generally produces red wines with modest tannins and lots of bright blueberry and cherry fruit. This bottling from Alamos adds a compelling smoky note on the finish.
2007 Yellow + Blue Mendoza Malbec ($12)
Inviting blackberry fruit and a peppery finish are the hallmarks of this eco-friendly Malbec, which is grown organically and packaged in low-carbon-footprint one-liter Tetra Paks.
2008 Maipe Malbec ($13)
Noted Italian winemaker Alberto Antonini acts as a consultant for this estate in Mendoza, helping make velvety reds like this one. Its flavor suggests freshly crushed berries.
2005 Bodega Weinert Carrascal ($15)
Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet go into this generous red blend from Bodega Weinert, one of the country’s top wineries. Its blueberry and cherry flavors end on fine, chalky tannins.
2006 Michel Torino Don David Syrah ($17)
A focused Syrah from a producer that’s been making wine in Cafayate since 1892, this red is full of ripe wild-blackberry and smoke notes.
2004 Ernesto Catena Selections Tahuan Cabernet Sauvignon ($18)
Ernesto Catena, son of Argentinean wine legend Nicolás Catena, started his own company in 1995, producing, among other wines, this spicy, cassis-driven Cabernet.
2006 Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec ($19)
Bodega Norton makes a number of good-value bottlings. This big-shouldered Malbec offers lots of dark, chocolate-edged plum flavors.
2006 Finca Decero Cabernet Sauvignon ($20)
Grapes for this currant-rich, green-peppercorn Cabernet come from the Remolinos vineyard, which is named after tiny dust clouds for which the local climate is known.