Over the past decade, Malbec has continued to exert its dominance as one of the most popular red wines among everyday wine consumers. A wine that wasn’t brought to prominence by sommeliers, but instead rose to popularity through wine shops and word of mouth, Malbec continues to be a red wine people ask for regularly, especially when it comes to a wine they drink at home.
And while Argentina is seen as the modern-day home of Malbec, thanks to its popularity, the grape is now being grown all over the world, with other regions clamoring to get in on a piece of the action. But Malbec’s popularity also comes with a bit of a downside, there are thousands of bottles available, making it very hard for most consumers to know which ones to choose. While, surprisingly, like Champagne, Malbec does have a few well known brand names for which consumers can reach, for the most part, it’s still unclear which bottles stand out amongst the sea of options.
To help bring clarity to this crowded territory, we issued an open call to wineries, importers and publicists, asking them to submit their offerings to our Malbec reader tasting panel. We then convened a group of twenty VinePair readers – who applied and were selected from a field of hundreds – to rate those bottles. The wines submitted were a diverse collection of price points and regions, from wines that cost as little as $6 a bottle, to bottles that cost well over $100, and from regions as varied as Malbec’s ancestral home of France, to Argentina, Chile and even the Napa Valley. The readers were equally diverse, with different backgrounds, careers and tasting experience. But they all had one thing in common: each was considered the tastemaker when it came to choosing wine among their group of friends.
Each wine was tasted blind and the panel was asked to rate the bottles on a scale of one to ten, with one meaning they’d never drink it, to ten meaning the wine was incredible. We then compiled the scores and created an average for each bottle. Only after the final scores were tabulated did we reveal to ourselves the names of the bottles and their country of origin. While some of the results were expected, others were quite surprising.
When rating each of the wines, the panel said they were seeking wines with character and complexity, wines that they felt would go well with both food and alone – the wines were tasted with a meal – and wines they felt were easy drinkers, with silky tannins and moderate acidity. A poll of the panel revealed that these were the common characteristics most of them expect from good Malbec, regardless of whether these readers were in the wine industry – which some were – or simply wine lovers.
It will probably come as no surprise to most that the wines from Argentina were the overwhelming favorites with the panel. In fact, every single wine that ranked in the top ten – besides number 2, which was from the Napa Valley – was made in Argentina. It seems that even though other regions are choosing to cultivate the grape, Argentina still produces it best.
Chile, which was also well represented, did not see a wine break into the rankings until 13th on the list, with the Emiliana Natura Malbec, and following them, the next country to challenge Argentina’s dominance did not appear until 22nd on the list. It was Clos Siguier from Cahors, France – the grape’s ancestral home.
The Top Ten Malbecs On The U.S. Market
The price point of the wines in the top ten varies drastically, from $11 at the low end, all the way up to $70 at the high. Also surprising is the mix of well known brand name Malbecs right alongside more independent producers. Here are the results:
The Top Five:
Catena ‘Alamos’ Selección Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – $15
At $15 this was not only the best wine in the tasting, but also the best value.
Trinchero Napa Valley Forte, Napa Valley, USA – $70
A blend based in Malbec, while this wine was a hit, it’s only available from the winery.
Bodegas Caro ‘Caro’ Cosecha, Mendoza, Argentina – $57
Made by the famed Rothschild family, readers commented that this wine was the perfect bottle to give as a gift or cellar for yourself.
Renacer Punto Final Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – $18
A complex Malbec, with a nice amount of spice and oak balanced by acidity and red fruit.
Casa Bianchi ‘Elsa Bianchi’ Malbec, San Rafael, Argentina – $11
While some readers commented this wine was a bit sweet, most were fans of its fruit-forward characteristics, nice acidity and smooth, silky tannins.
Six Through Ten:
Rutini Trumpeter Malbec, Tupungato, Argentina – $11
Catena Zapata ‘Catena’ Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – $20
Bodega Colome Estate Malbec, Calchaqui Valley, Argentina – $25
Bodega Aleanna ‘El Enemigo’ Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – $25
Finca Sophenia Reserve Malbec, Tupungato, Argentina – $17