Made from 100-year-old vines, this Malbec is gentle and pleasing. The nose has dry earth notes, and the flavor a slight spiciness. Dark berry compote with candied plum and burnt sugar, hints of cocoa, tobacco. Tinny tannins but a floral finish. Rounds out nicely with time Aerate and/or decant before serving. Recommended. BSE
The “Oro” is the reserve Malbec, and it’s a restrained version of the regular Malbec in the Gauchezco line. Here, there’s a very slight aroma of blackberry and leaf. Spicy, dark, cooked cherry on the palate, transitioning to milder dark red fruit in end palate and finish. Cocoa notes. Light, integrated tannins. Remember to open a half-hour before drinking, or decant or aerate first. Recommended. BSE
Both Chile and Argentina are also producing unique wines of real character, many of them at prices that are fractions of their Old World European or even U.S. counterparts thanks their to the much lower labor and land costs. You just need to know where to find them.
Achaval-Ferrer is famed for producing extremely complex—and extremely expensive—Malbec, but their Quimera blend (made from malbec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot from varying locations and in varying percentages) is a steal even at forty bucks. Quimera is a demanding wine, with huge structure, dark fruits, and savory, herbal notes. It’s also a unique wine, blending the best of Argentina’s Malbec qualities with those of red grapes usually associated with Bordeaux and California—and in the best years it can age for decades, gaining similar complexity, nuance and elegance as its much pricier counterparts north of the equator.
Golden with a greenish tinge, this Chardonnay has enough flavors of crème brûlée, vanilla, golden apples and apricot preserves—along with enough gorgeous, mouth filling complexity—to get Napa winemakers in a nervous sweat. It’s a steakhouse worthy Chardonnay, built for potatoes and lobster, for about half the price as you will find in Napa, and with what seems like twice the food friendly acidity.
Alamos Chardonnay, made by the high-volume division of the Catena family’s Argentinean wine empire, is pretty good at being what it’s supposed to be. It’s a tasty Chardonnay, with a varietally correct profile of citrus, toasted bread, and vanilla. It’s not too big, drinks easily—and costs under $10 in most places in the US. Overall, the Alamos is actually a lot more pleasant than many other equivalent brands at equivalent prices. What’s missing is a sense of place, a more precise definition of character, beyond the varietal one. That extra layer of personality is something you’d be disappointed not to find in your glass, if you’re going to spend $50 on one of the higher end wines from the Catena Zapata range. But for a pleasant summer quaffer, technical achievement can do the trick. Recommended.