From anonymity to one of the most popular grape varieties on earth – Argentina’s star keeps rising.
By Natalie Sellers
Of all the grapes forecast to achieve greatness 20 years ago, not one vinous Nostradamus would have put their last 10 bucks on Malbec.
Argentina is great at many things: football, fine steaks and the Andes, but it truly excels at Malbec. In fact, Argentina has made the grape fashionable, via the high-altitude offerings of Mendoza.
The below wines are the current 10 most popular Malbec listed on Wine-Searcher. Every single one of them is from Argentina and almost, but not all, are from the Mendoza. Each score referred to in the below is a number aggregated from the scores collected from our pool of critics and all prices quoted are an average price.
1. Catena Zapata Catena Malbec, Mendoza Catena Zapata dominates this list with five wines, which would suggest they are very popular indeed. The bodega’s popularity is due, in part, to its long history – it was founded in 1902 – and its success with putting Malbec in the spotlight and Mendoza on the map. Sometimes called the Grand Cru of South America, it’s now managed by Nicolás Catena Zapata but, up until the 1960s, it had been run following the strict Italian winemaking traditions of Nicolás’ father and grandfather. Using his experience in Berkeley, Nicolás bought to the Bodega a fresher, more modern style of winemaking that focused on using contemporary equipment, winemaking techniques and vinicultural management. The Catena Malbec has a price of $18 and a score of 89 points; a winner when it comes to bang for buck.
2. Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino, Uco Valley Next on the list is the Argentino. With a score of 92 points, it’s a step up from the Catena, but this is also reflected in its $96 price tag. Argentino pays homage to the strong French influence that still lingers over the estate. The label depicts four women representing key moments in the grape’s history. There’s Eleanor of Aquitaine representing Malbec’s origins in Cahors; there’s a figure representing the move to the New World; there is a figure representing phylloxera, which decimated Malbec to some degree in the Old World but also made Malbec in the New World all the more important. Finally, there is the figure of Adrianna Catena representing the bodega. The wine is 100-percent Malbec and spends 18 months in French oak barrels, a tribute to its European roots.
Once an unfashionable blending component in Bordeaux, it gained a small amount of passing fame in Cahors, offering dusty, dark, herbal reds of some note. It wasn’t until it arrived on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean that it gained enough status to warrant its own celebratory anniversary, which was earlier this month. Malbec World Day not only celebrates Malbec, but also the place where it reached its greatest heights, appropriately among the high mountain valleys of Argentina [ . . . ]
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