To say that Malbec is Argentina’s national grape is an understatement. The variety accounts for more than one-third of the country’s red-grape production and has almost singlehandedly put Argentina on the world wine map.
Malbec’s stunning success in Argentina, where it thrives in the dry, sun-drenched climate, overshadows the fact that it was brought there from France. It is still popular in Cahors in France’s southwest and in the Loire Valley (where it is known as Côt), and it is a minor player in Bordeaux.
Although Argentina produces — and exports — oceans of Malbec, some of the best is from one of the country’s smallest wine areas, the remote, high-elevation Salta region in the northwest. This is where Bodega Colomé produces its distinctive Estate Malbec in the Upper Calchaqui Valley in the foothills of the Andes. With an average of price of $22 on Wine Searcher, the 2015 is a stunning value.
This is a robust and exciting wine with generous fruit that calls to mind blackberry and cassis, plus a touch of dark chocolate and some minerals on the finish. Good balance is achieved by subtle oak aging (mainly in used French barrels), and bright acidity from the region’s wide day-night temperature swings. It’s made for grilled meats and well-seasoned grilled vegetables, perhaps marinated in olive oil, balsamic, and your choice of herbs.
The wine is 100 percent Malbec from four Colomé estate vineyards situated at 5,500 to 10,200 feet, the latter described by the winery as the highest vineyard in the world. If that sounds beguiling, so is this wine, one of the best mid-priced Malbecs I’ve tasted. It’s no wonder that the region has attracted interest and investment from beyond Argentina, including from Hess Family Wine Estates, which acquired Colomé in 2001.