Whether you're drinking for Malbec World Day or just looking for a solid bottle to pair with dinner, these wines won't do you wrong.
The rise of Malbec from Argentina has been well-documented over the last decade-plus. But for all of its popularity, the range of styles in which it can be grown and produced is still stubbornly underestimated. Argentina, after all, is a country with significant changes in altitude and soil composition from one region or sub-zone to the next. And the winemaking goals of the countless producers there are just as divergent. The result of this is a stunning mosaic of Malbec options; the claim that there is a quintessential style of Argentinian Malbec is just plain wrong. From value-priced wines to bottles that are worth saving for, and from fruity, gulpable Malbecs to more structured ones that require time to come into their own, the totality of these wines is wildly exciting.
I tasted dozens and dozens (and then dozens more!) of Malbecs in order to compile the list below. It was a fascinating, delicious exercise, and the result of that teeth-staining work is a collection of 25 standouts that, from just over $10 to nearly $150 a bottle, represent exactly why these wines are so exciting to explore right now. No matter what your budget, they are all worth considering. And, of course, enjoying alongside a steak or a burger. Or two.
Silky and lively, with flavors of black cherry liqueur, black raspberry, tobacco, and spice, all lifted by a subtle herbal hint.
2. Bodega del Rio Elorza “Verum” Malbec 2014 Alto Valle del Rio Negro, Patagonia
Spice, flowers, cherry, and black raspberry aromas precede a fascinating palate marked by those same fruits and anchored by star anise, earth, and leather. Savory, complex, and layered.
3. Bodega Septima Malbec 2016 Mendoza
Subtle, but don’t let that fool you: This is a sneakily complex bottle, with violets, cherry, abd blueberry lifting from the glass, and a palate that is well-defined by mineral, wild berry, and tobacco. At under $15, this is a very good deal.
4. Finca Sophenia Altosur Malbec 2016 Tupungato, Mendoza
Hard to believe this is around $10 a bottle: Rarely does a wine so inexpensive show such complexity. With tarragon-flecked cherry and red raspberry aromas, and copious cherry flavors zipped up with mineral and herb, it’s an easy purchase if you see a bottle.
5. Casarena Areyna Estate Malbec 2015 Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza
Well-defined and pure, with a quiet herbal edge to notes of red cherry and spice. Another excellent value.
6. Luigi Bosca Single Vineyard Malbec DOC Lujan de Cuyo 2014
A gorgeous nose swirling with leather and spiced mulberry conserve turns to a beguiling palate of berry, plum, flowers, sandalwood, and peppercorn. Concentrated, lively, and layered.
7. Mendel Malbec 2015 Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza
Darker aromas of cola and spice cake complicate savory-sweet flavors of plum, kirsch-filled dark chocolate, and vanilla. Rich and alluring, and a great wine to transition from the steak to the cheese course.
8. Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2015 Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza
This is still remarkably youthful, and with air its full potential shines through. There’s a minerality to the mixed berries, wild strawberry, cedar, and current, all of it resolving on a gorgeous note of violets. Decant a bottle now, and lay down another few to continue evolving for several years.
Boysenberry and blackberry notes are fresh and juicy, tinged with herbs, and layered with sweet vanilla. It’s all begging to be paired with grilled hamburgers, maybe topped with a few deeply caramelized onions.
10. Luca Old Vine Malbec 2015 Uco Valley, Mendoza
Plush and silky in texture, with a brambly note to the plum and spice cake, as well as hints of clove, black cherry, and violets.
So well-defined, with moderately spicy cherry conserve, floral peppercorn, and minerality. The finish is long and gently floral.
This will age for another decade, but it’s pretty difficult to resist right now, with sage, cigar tobacco, roasting cacao nibs, plum, black cherry, and sandalwood. The bottle made me seriously consider firing up the grill for a few steaks, even though it was snowing outside.
Fresh and herb-tinged, with cherry, mountain berry, and a whiff of Chinese five-spice. It’s a remarkable value at under $15.
14. Susana Balbo Signature Malbec 2014 Valle de Uco, Mendoza
Clean, lively, and bright, with shimmering purple berry fruit, blueberry, a touch of fresh spearmint, and tobacco. As usual, Susana Balbo comes through with a fairly priced winner.
15. Finca La Igriega Malbec 2014 Paraje Altamira, Valle de Uco, Mendoza
Well-cut and lifted, with violets, raspberry, and a hint of pomegranate on the nose, and a palate generous and ripe with raspberry, goji berry, kirsch, chocolate, and mineral. A bit sweeter in style than expected, but it carries that richness beautifully. Pair with grill-charred sausage and beef.
16. Casarena Naoki’s Vineyard Malbec 2014 Agrelo, Mendoza
Mysterious forest floor aromas, with just-fallen leaves alongside minty notes of eucalyptus and wild berries, all turning to generous flavors of sweet cherry, wild strawberry, and spice. The fresh finish is exotic with incense and flowers. It’s all so fresh, your breath may smell better after drinking this—when’s the last time that happened?
17. Domaine Bousquet Reserve Malbec 2016
Savory and concentrated, with charred vanilla pod, plum sauce, cigar humidor, and minerality to spare. Bring on the barbecue!
Floral, concentrated, and savory, with a delicious gamey edge to the black cherry, mountain berries, green olive, and mineral notes.
19. Kaiken Malbec “Mai” 2013 Mendoza
So much cut and definition on the nose, with eucalyptus aromas joined by berry fruit and plum of startling freshness. That same level of excitement follows through to the powerful, generous palate, which boasts raspberry, blackberry, eucalyptus, Chinese five-spice, and tapenade, all resolving with a haunting, violet-flecked finish. Well worth the money.
20. Dona Paula Estate Malbec 2016 Valle de Uco, Mendoza
Incredibly floral aromas are paired with grilled nectarine and white peach, all of which precede fresh raspberry, cherry, and orange oil. At under $15, this is a gulpable no-brainer.
Sappy, rich, and generous, with flowers and chocolate-covered Amarena cherries. Custom-made, I think, for braised short ribs.
22. Renacer “Renacer” Malbec 2014 Mendoza
Crunchy minerality cuts through the lush structure here, and the tension between spicy plum pudding, toasty vanilla, chocolate, and kirsch is stunning.
23. Catena Zapata Nicasia Vineyard Malbec 2013 La Consulta, Mendoza
Transporting aromas of plum pudding, cafe mocha, cigar humidor, leather, and a hint of smoke all precede a wonderfully balanced palate with both power and freshness. Look for flavors of plum, Amarena cherry, high-cacao chocolate, and a balsamic note, especially on the floral finish. The $115 price tag feels just about right.
24. Lindaflor Malbec 2010 Valle de Uco, Mendoza
Jasmine, violets, cigars, chocolate ganache, and blackberry liqueur mark the ambrosial nose of this beauty, and prime the palate for a wave of cassis, sacher torte, and cafe mocha. I’m not usually a huge fan of wines that have seen this much oak, but it’s all so well-integrated and balanced that I was more than won over.
Decidedly spicy on the nose, with dark berries, black cherry, and tobacco. On the tongue, however, is where this wine really shines, its flashes of chocolate, ripe black cherry, vanilla pastry creme, and mineral lingering with balance and charm to spare. 85% Malbec and 15 percent Cabernet Sauvignon