With the runaway success of Malbec in Argentina, it’s easy to forget that the grape was transplanted from France, where it was (and still is) a minor player in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley and the dominant variety in the small Cahors appellation in the south.

But more than anywhere, Malbec thrives in its adopted country, where it has no problem ripening in the Argentine sun. No wonder it’s become the country’s leading red grape, making “gloriously velvety, concentrated, lively wines,” as Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson describe it in their new 8th edition of “The World Atlas of Wine,” adding that producers in Cahors now even model their wines on the best Argentine Malbecs.

Here in this country, you can find them at $100 or at $10 and everything in between. One that caught my attention on the budget end of the spectrum is Ernesto Catena’s 2018 “Padrillos” Malbec from the Uco Valley of Mendoza, Argentina’s most important wine region.

The $12 wine is uncomplicated but delicious, just what I hope for at this price point. (And while label design is never a factor in my wine choices, this one, with its padrillos, or stallions, is stunning and is certain to draw some to the bottle.)

The Padrillos Malbec is young and fresh with lively acidity, smooth tannins, and a nice combination of brambly dark and red fruit tastes, plum, and touches of vanilla, leather, and meat. Enjoy it slightly chilled with everything from pizza to burgers to grilled chicken. Think of it as a go-to bottle for summer barbecue season.

Ernesto Catena is the eldest son of Nicolás Catena, who built a wine empire in Mendoza largely around Malbec and helped propel the grape — and the country — into a wine powerhouse.

Buy This Wine