The 21 Best Argentine Malbecs to Drink Right Now
I last wrote about the Malbec of Argentina, three years ago, I was very impressed with the state of the industry. Since then, the wines have generally gotten even better, with producers throughout the country working to not only craft delicious and often wildly affordable wines, but also to more deeply understand the land in which their grapes are grown. Catena Zapata, for example, is excelling with their parcel-specific bottlings, and a visit with Zuccardi in late 2019 turned into a masterclass in how a deep understanding of the geological and climatic forces impacting the land in which the vines are planted, and a willingness to find and work in more extreme sites, can lead to wines of shimmering terroir specificity.
Here, then, are 21 standouts from my latest round of tasting, listed alphabetically. From bottles priced to be enjoyed alongside a hamburger on a Tuesday night to special-occasion-worthy wines, Malbec from Argentina is still full of delicious surprises, even after all these years.
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2015 Achaval Ferrer Malbec Finca Altamira Mendoza ($116)
Achaval Ferrer's single-vineyard Malbecs have become benchmarks over the years, and this particular bottling is in a great place right now. Aromas of orange oil and pith join evocative cedar and sandalwood notes, with a pulse of mineral before a palate of energy, concentration, and remarkable detail. Flavors of sappy red cherries, kumquats, grilled plums, allspice, and tobacco leaf roll along, and an almost saline finish lingers with sweet rooibos-dusted tannins.
2018 Amalaya Gran Corte Barrel Selection Malbec Salta ($20)
Grown 5,900 feet above sea level, this energetic wine has a vivid mineral cut fleshed out with flavors of wild mountain berries, goji berries, sweet spice in the clove and vanilla vein, and a touch of chocolate and grilled herbs. 85% Malbec, 9% Cabernet Franc, 6% Tannat.
2019 Arado Malbec Cafayate Valley, Salta ($10)
An excellent core of wild strawberries and the suggestion of pomegranate syrup finds sweetness from caramelized vanilla pod and a touch of black plums. Rich and sappy, yet not overdone in any sense.
2017 Bodegas Bianchi "Particular" Malbec San Rafael, Mendoza ($40)
Gobs of purple fruit on the nose are layered with toasty vanilla, and precede a palate of ripe black and purple plums, crushed blackberries, pomegranate syrup, sweet cigar tobacco, and a subtle sizzle of spice.
2018 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino Mendoza ($120)
A subtle yet deep nose of dark berries, sweet spice, incense, and cigar tobacco paves the way for a palate of intense generosity and impressive structure, which carries waves of ancho-dusted vanilla-chocolate mousse, black cherries, licorice, and blood oranges sweeping in on the finish. Long, dusty tannins and excellent balance promise years of evolution ahead. Also make sure to check out the lineup of "vinos de parcelas" from the Adrianna Vineyard, which, taken together, are a tour de force embodiment of how terroir impacts the liquid in the bottle.
2018 Colomé Autentico Malbec Valle Calchaquí, Salta ($40)
Silky in texture and with a beautiful lift of candied violets and warm figs alongside plums and cigar tobacco, all resolving on a generous, fruit-driven finish sparked with subtle minerality. This is a wine that isn't made with any oak… and doesn't need it.
2017 Durigutti "Pie de Monte" Finca Zarlenga Malbec Los Árboles, Valle de Uco, Mendoza ($25)
This is such a quietly confident, resolutely non-flashy wine that wears its achievement lightly. Aromas suggesting subtle pastrami spices are joined by black cherries and incense, before a beautifully structured palate of deeply mineral character and flavors of cherries and cherry pits, tar, candied violets, and black plums.
2018 Kaiken Ultra Malbec Mendoza ($20)
This bottle from Montes is generous and energetic, with vanilla and milk chocolate wrapping around flavors of cassis, blackberries, and licorice. A nice wave of acidity sweeps in on the finish, keeping it fresh and promising a solid five years of evolution ahead.
2019 Marcelo Bocardo Malbec Reserva Mendoza ($16)
It's quite mineral on the nose, but sipping this reveals a wine of generosity and poise. Purple plums, cocoa powder, cafe mocha, kirsch, and warm black figs roll across the tongue, all sweetly spiced and anchored with a touch of beef bouillon.
2018 Pascual Toso "Alta" Malbec Barrancas Vineyards, Mendoza ($50)
This is a deeply savory expression of Malbec, with distinct leather tones alongside sun-warmed granite, green olives, and scorched earth, but with a bit of air, purple berry and plum fruit emerge, making this an excellent companion to char-grilled and slightly smoky ribeye.
2019 Piattelli Vineyards Reserve Malbec Cafayate Valley, Salta ($13)
Grown at 5,900 feet above sea level, this Malbec finds its footing on the floral end of the spectrum -- candied violets, the suggestion of jasmine -- with anchoring notes of juicy, generous plums and blueberries. A scrubby herb character hovers in the background, and a seam of mineral cuts through the center. This is a lot of wine for a very reasonable price.
2014 Pyros Block No. 4 Single Vineyard Malbec Valle de Pedernal ($40)
What a gorgeous and idiosyncratic nose of sesame seeds, tobacco, leather, and cherries with their pits, before a palate of bright acidity and maturing characteristics of bresaola, scrubby herbs, orange oils, espresso crema, and wild strawberries. A wine at its peak that still can age another 5 years.
2019 Salentein Reserve Malbec Valle de Uco ($19)
Smoldering rosemary lifts this cassis-coated Malbec, with a bit of butterscotch sweeping in on the mineral, unexpectedly saline finish. This is one for food.
2019 Santa Julia Malbec Reserva Valle de Uco, Mendoza ($13)
Bright and gulpable for its mouthwatering cherries, black raspberries, and sweet vanilla and whole cloves, yet sneakily complex with more savory allspice and cigar tobacco notes that elevate the well-structured finish.
2017 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec Valle de Uco ($25)
Sweet, ripe, sappy cherry liqueur and crushed blackberries are joined by whole cloves, vanilla, and a nod in the direction of cardamom in this generous, food-friendly red.
2015 Tapiz "Black Tears" Malbec San Pablo Vineyard, Uco Valley ($50)
Distinctly balsamic at this stage of its evolution, with black cherry cobbler, plum compote, graham cracker crust (especially on the finish), maduro cigar tobacco, allspice, and sweet cinnamon: Perfect with sweet-sauced ribs. Also don't miss Tapiz's 2018 Zolo Malbec Reserve, from the El Jarillal Estate, Alto Agrelo, Luján de Cujo. It rings from the glass with fantastic freshness, aromas of blueberries and bluebonnets, sappy cherries, and sweet spice, all teeing up flavors of mountain berries, wild cherries, spice, and a finish that's subtly lifted with flowers.
2017 Terrazas de Los Andes Malbec Reserva Mendoza ($22)
Floral and rich, with a notably silky texture. Plums and blueberries are layered with candied violets, tobacco leaf, and star anise, especially on the mineral-flecked finish.
2017 Trapiche Gran Medalla Malbec Mendoza ($30)
Dense and almost brooding on the nose, with carob, espresso beans, and black plums teeing up a velvety palate of unexpected acid lift, with flavors of mountain berries, cassis, pencil led, and incense on the finish.
2019 Trivento Malbec Reserve Mendoza ($11)
Juicy with plums, wild cherries, and goji berries, and nicely structured with ripe tannins that frame additional notes of sarsaparilla and blood oranges. A tobacco-tinged finish lingers with a counterpoint of savoriness. Very well-crafted, and an excellent value.
2018 Wapisa Malbec San Javier Rio Negro, Patagonia ($19)
This is minty and lifted as soon as you sniff it, yet a thrum of earthiness and salinity pulses through. On the palate, the fruit here is in the mountain berry and black cherry vein, and very juicy at that. Great energy and concentration, and the high-toned acidity and Earl Grey tea notes lend this such an appealing core.
2019 Zuccardi "Concreto" Malbec Paraje Altamira, Mendoza ($40)
This bottling of whole-cluster-fermented Malbec from Zuccardi -- done entirely in concrete eggs, as the name implies -- and with fruit from the high-altitude Paraje Altamira, has been reliably delicious every time I've tasted it. Pure and mineral, it's fleshed out with brambly berries, plum pits, and a hint of chamomile, and framed by tea-like tannins that are structuring yet not overwhelming in the least. An excellent evocation of what makes the best high-altitude wines of Argentina so stunning. Nothing here is extraneous, and the wine is all the more impressive for it.