Don’t get me wrong, I love drinking Napa Cabs as much as the next guy. But nothing boils my blood more than sitting down at a restaurant and seeing the cheapest Cabernet from California on the wine list at a price four times what I would pay in the store. Who needs to spend $60 on a bottle of Kendall Jackson?!? That is when I look for the value selections, and most times I can find them in South America.
Malbec originated in France, and is actually one of the 5 grapes that can be used in the Bordeaux red wines. But these days Argentina has cornered the market on Malbec, and for good reason. They are making a ton of it, and making it well. The beauty is you can spend around $10-15 and get some really big, inky, fruit driven wines. Moreover, the restaurants don’t tend to mark them up as much as the Cali and European wines because there is usually such a large inventory.
Pascual Toso consistently makes solid Malbecs at every level. The vineyards are located in the Mendoza area of Argentina, where it is nearly impossible to find bad Malbec. Paul Hobbs, who is an icon in California, consults on these wines and his expertise is evident in their lush, fruit forward characteristics. The entry level wines run from $9-13 with the Reserva going for $16-22. These are great when paired with grilled beef of any kind, which makes sense as the Argentines are also infamous for their Asado.
Two other stellar producers of value Malbec are Alamos and Luigi Bosca. Luigi Bosca’s Reserva almost always scores in the low 90’s and stays in the $15 range. Alamos offers a Malbec that is under $10 and is a great inexpensive way to sample all that the varietal has to offer. It’s smooth and easy drinkin wine, with the ability to hold up to a hearty meal as well.
Catena Zapata has basically staked its claim as the dominant force in the Malbec world. While even their entry level Catena Malbec is not cheap (around $15-20), each and every wine they make gets high critical acclaim and is just flat out great Malbec. Their Catena Alta is something special, and even though it runs around $40-50, if it came out of Napa or Bordeaux it would cost double that!
Lastly, if you are one of those lucky people that can afford to spend $60-70 on a bottle then do yourself a favor and pick up some of the Cheval des Andes Bordeaux Blend. Located in Mendoza, it is owned by the same people who produce the legendary St. Emilion Chateau Cheval Blanc (featured in the film Sideways) which can fetch up to $1,000 a bottle.
This wine has everything from big dark fruit, to complexities from the oak aging, yet stays delicate and elegant in the true St. Emilion style… it’s got it all!! It’s certainly worth picking up for that next special occasion, or if you see it for under $150 on a wine list and decide to throw caution to the wind. After all, life is too short to drink bad wine.