Argentine Malbec is one of the success stories of recent years. It’s a regular fixture on restaurant wine lists, it’s widely known as the perfect partner of steak — thanks to that Argentina connection — and it’s even got its own yearly celebration day (held on 17 April).
While Malbec is inextricably intertwined with Argentina, it’s actually one of the traditional varieties of Bordeaux, where it’s known as Côt, but the styles couldn’t be more different. French Malbec is generally tannic, inky and dark, whereas Argentine examples are rich, velvety and spicy.
The true home of Argentine Malbec is Mendoza, close to the Andes and the border with Chile, but other regions are producing fantastic Malbecs with a style of their own.
Bodega El Esteco Don David Blend Of Terroirs Malbec 2019 is made in Salta, in the far north of Argentina, and wowed the IWSC judges with its densely packed juicy black-cherry palate, polished texture and vibrant acidity.
The one criticism of Argentine Malbec is the occasional tendency to push things a little too far, striving for too much intensity, so it’s encouraging to hear that some winemakers are using carbonic maceration. Widely used in Beaujolais, it’s a style of winemaking that gives bright, vibrant, fruity wines that can be drunk young, as opposed to the more intense, oaky versions aged for longer.
There’s also been a big push on freshness and finesse, perhaps reflecting a global trend among wine drinkers keen for more elegance in their red wines. Argentine Malbec is one of the most reliable red wines you’ll find – and here are the best of them, as judged in IWSC 2020.
Estate Reserva Organic Fairtrade Malbec 2018
Ripe and expressive notes of classic violet, plum and blackberry nuances mingle with sweet spices and a satisfying toasty note. Harmoniously balanced, with a refined tannic structure and fabulous length; this is a wine of outstanding quality and finesse. 14.5%
Asda Extra Special Malbec 2019
International Procurement and Logistics
Lilac and lavender bloom through nose and palate, while morello cherry and blackberry meld with sweet and savoury herbs in endless complexity. Fresh acidity and gentle tannins corral intense depth with languid skill while finish displays arresting grainy hint. Wonderful typicity. 13.5%
Bianchi Particular Malbec 2018
Juicy blackberry and black cherry engage the nose before an almost blueberry custard-like palate evolves with hints of charred meats and a nutty, earthy character. Generous, flattering and absolutely delicious. 14.9%
Icono Malbec 2017
A lovely depth of fruit on the nose and palate with some sweet tobacco, dried meat, liquorice and warming turmeric coming out to play. A gorgeously textured and complex wine. 14.5%
La Mascota Malbec 2019
Bodega Mascota Vineyards
Excellent intensity of blackberry, cassis, plum and leather notes with some bitter chocolate and savoury elements lingering in the background and sleek, ripe tannins supporting. Deep, complex and wonderful. 14%
Altaluvia Malbec 2018
Sur Andino Argentina
Dark fruited, enticing nose with cocoa, tobacco and herbs. On the palate, mulberries, violets and baking spices. Bold structure with mouth-watering acidity and firm tannins. Elegant and classy. 14.5%
Sombrero Malbec 2019
Eucalyptus aromas highlight notes of stone fruits on the nose. Blueberry, plum and allspice hints mingle harmoniously on a well-structured palate underlined by soft tannins. Velvety, lasting and very enjoyable. 15%