Best Malbec wine: Top Argentinian bottles

Argen­ti­na offers fan­tas­tic Mal­becs across all pri­ce ran­ges, from value choi­ces to fine wines. Ahead of Mal­bec Day on the 17th April, here is a selec­tion of 18 top bottles cho­sen by the Decan­ter team from recent tastings.

A hand holds a bunch of Mal­bec gra­pes in a vineyard
Har­ves­ting Mal­bec at Bode­ga Argen­to’s Alta­mi­ra Vineyard
High­lights­Tas­tings Home
The­re used to be a stan­dard cli­ché of Argen­ti­nian Mal­bec. Great with steak, obviously. Plenty of black and red plum fruit, usually with a baked or syrupy edge. Alcohol star­ting at 14% and edging up further to 16%. ‘I’ve tas­ted 16.5% – you can­not finish the glass, let alo­ne the bottle,’ notes Patri­cio Tapia, author of the influen­tial Desor­cha­dos gui­de to Argen­ti­nian, Chi­lean and Uru­gua­yan wines.

Tho­se wines were part of a com­mer­cial boom in Argen­ti­na,’ says Tapia. But whi­le Argen­ti­nian Mal­bec has effec­ti­vely beco­me a ‘brand’ in its own right, now a sta­ple fea­tu­re on wine lists around the world, the wines have evolved.

The chan­ge has been appa­rent in Men­do­za, the vine­yard in the desert,’ he adds. ‘Pro­du­cers are inves­ting in the Uco Valley to the west, beyond Luján de Cuyo, cha­sing higher alti­tu­des, wider diur­nal tem­pe­ra­tu­re ran­ges and dif­fe­rent soils (abo­ve all, limes­to­ne). Gual­ta­llary, Alta­mi­ra and La Con­sul­ta are the among the small sub-zones that are gai­ning inter­na­tio­nal fame.’

New tech­no­logy… old vines

In the vine­yard viti­cul­tu­rists are both loo­king for­ward with new tech­no­logy and loo­king back to the heri­ta­ge of their old vines. ‘Care­ful work on row orien­ta­tion and viti­cul­tu­re is brin­ging in fresher fruit,’ explains Tapia, which in turn leads to fresher, lower-alcohol wines.

Meanwhi­le in Luján de Cuyo, wine­ries are focu­sing on the bene­fits of their old vines. ‘The region’s oldest vines are often plan­ted on their own roots, with great gene­tic diver­sity from cen­tu­ries of mas­sal selec­tions and muta­tions, giving them a dis­tin­cti­ve cha­rac­ter,’ says Aman­da Bar­nes, DWWA jud­ge and author of The South Ame­ri­ca Wine Guide.

In gene­ral terms, howe­ver, Luján Mal­becs are typi­cally roun­der and broa­der on the pala­te, with riper black- and red-fruit fla­vours than the fresher, flo­ral sty­le of Uco Valley, but more chi­se­lled than the jam­mier wines of Mai­pú,’ she says.

The­re have also been chan­ges in wine­ma­king. ‘In the winery, there’s a wel­co­me move­ment to redu­ce oak and repla­ce new barrels with old oak and lar­ge fou­dres. Sig­ni­fi­cantly, the new gene­ra­tion is inves­ting in con­cre­te,’ says Tapia. A sym­bol is Zuccardi’s Uco Valley winery, ope­ned in 2016 and desig­ned to reflect the surroun­ding the rocky lands­ca­pe, which Sebas­tian Zuc­car­di has filled with con­cre­te eggs and amphorae.

A sen­se of place

Mal­bec is our main red gra­pe and the mar­ket knows Mal­bec. But I encou­ra­ge con­su­mers to keep on tas­ting Mal­bec from dif­fe­rent ori­gins in Argen­ti­na. It is very per­fu­med and fruity but also can be qui­te aus­te­re, still with a lot of cha­rac­ter on the pala­te,’ adds Paz Levin­son, DWWA Regio­nal chair for Argen­ti­na 2022.

It is impres­si­ve how Mal­bec can be a trans­pa­rent gra­pe… it shows the pla­ce very well. Today we can iden­tify dif­fe­rent terroirs whi­le tas­ting and have a deep unders­tan­ding of the great wines Argen­ti­na is making,’ she adds.

Clearly the­re has never been a bet­ter time to explo­re Argen­ti­nian Mal­bec. The bottles below should offer some drin­king ins­pi­ra­tion. And the best part? Mal­bec from Argen­ti­na still makes a fan­tas­tic wine pai­ring with steak.

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