WineHandpicked by IWSC
Argentina produces some of the most thrilling red wines on the planet. We’ve picked out 10 great examples that show what the country is capable of – and they’re not all Malbec…
Words by David Kermode and IWSC experts
For most of us, Argentina more than likely means Malbec. Although the grape variety hails from Cahors in south-west France and was once a major player in Bordeaux, it is now intrinsically associated with Argentina, which makes three-quarters of the world’s Malbec.
A combination of near-perfect conditions for growing the vines, a revolution in quality and attractive pricing means the country now enjoys a market dominance for the variety that has defined its reputation, yet for lovers of red wine, Argentina offers so much more than merely Malbec.
Bonarda, unrelated to its Italian namesake, is the country’s second-most-planted variety, with the honest, exuberantly fruity wines proving increasingly fashionable; in third place, Cabernet Sauvignon is growing rapidly, the number of vines planted rising sixfold over a couple of decades; Syrah’s star is on the rise even faster, albeit from a lower base, and arguably leading the pack in terms of stature is Cabernet Franc, which has taken to the country’s unique terroir with aplomb.
Mendoza is Argentina’s biggest, most celebrated wine region, with its finest sub-zones fanning out into the foothills of the Andes. Historically, the most famous have been Luján de Cuyo and Maipú, although the Uco Valley a little further south has more recently been garnering the most attention – with its high-altitude sub-regions such as Gualtallary and Altamira talked up as Argentina’s grand crus.
“There has undoubtedly been a shift towards greater site expression, lower oak usage, less extraction and an emphasis on freshness,” says Alistair Cooper MW, an IWSC judge and South America specialist. “This is not unique to Argentina and has largely been a global shift since the early noughties, with the gradual waning of beefy, lush ‘Parker-ised’ styles.
“What has been key in Argentina has been the pioneering of terroirs that have helped producers do this and express the vibrancy and vitality that Malbec, and other grapes, possess,” he adds.
The focus on altitude, most notably in the Uco Valley, a proper understanding of microclimates and a far greater appreciation of the stony soils, often rich in limestone, has led to a new breed of premium Malbec, pioneered by the likes of Nicolás Catena Zapata, who was at the vanguard of the charge into the mountains and whose wines have joined the league of the First Growths traded on the Place de Bordeaux.
In the northernmost region of Salta, the vines climb even higher towards the skies, with the sub-zone of Cafayate starting at around 1700 metres, while in Molinos, Colome Estate’s Altura Máxima claims the record for the highest vineyard in the world at 3,111 metres.
The advent of these high-altitude wines and the associated step change in quality has, Cooper believes, made it much more difficult to define Argentinian Malbec and its blends in more general terms.
“Fascinatingly, I think this is increasingly a harder question to answer, as we are seeing so many incredible single-site, nuanced expressions. Malbec will produce wines of great drinkability, with a purity of fruit – perhaps that is the most defining factor for me – the fruit has so much vibrancy: cool blue, with floral notes. And the new terroirs are increasingly coaxing out fascinating chalky tannin profiles.”
The altitude lends itself to organic winemaking and among Gold medal winners at the IWSC awards was Bodega Argento Estate’s Reserva Organic Fairtrade Malbec 2018, from the village of Agrelo in Luján de Cuyo – celebrated for its sandy soils and considered by some to be the historic ‘cradle of Malbec’.
There’s value still to be found in Argentina, highlighted by Asda’s Extra Special Malbec – also a Gold medal winner, but coming it at well under £10. It’s produced in San Juan, the country’s second-biggest wine region 100 miles north of Mendoza.
The medals extend well beyond Malbec, reflecting both the country’s true diversity and its potential
The medals extend well beyond Malbec, however, reflecting both the country’s true diversity and its potential. Among the haul of Golds was a Cabernet Sauvignon made with fruit from the Uco Valley and Luján de Cuyo, and a Syrahfrom the sub-zone of Barrancas in Maipú, singled out for its “tremendous” northern Rhône style.
And, as if to underline the point that Argentina offers so much more than Malbec, the trophy winner was, in fact, a Cabernet Franc, from vines grown at 1,350 metres in Gualtallary. Altaluvia Cabernet Franc 2018 was described by the judges as “like floating on a languid river of vibrant black fruit, with heady spicy florals in the air and wet stone gleaming throughout.” Here are 10 examples that showcase the high quality that Argentina has to offer.
10 award-winning Argentinian red wines to try
Rutini, Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2016
Tiptoes in with light cassis and layered minerality, then bursts into endlessly streaming blackcurrant with nice savoury ripple. Tannins are like silk and oak is poised with smoky spice. A… Read More
Terrazas de los Andes, Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Shows quintessential terroir with beautifully busy herbal nose and pulsing concentrated heart of ripe blackberry and cherry. Palate weighs like a dream with complement of spice and mint chocolate while… Read More
Sur Andino, Altaluvia Cabernet Franc 2018
Like floating on a languid river of vibrant black fruit with heady spicy florals in the air and wet stone gleaming throughout. Tannins have good, restrained bite, oak is polished… Read More
Asda, Extra Special Malbec 2019
Lilac and lavender bloom through nose and palate, while morello cherry and blackberry meld with sweet and savoury herbs in endless complexity. Fresh acidity and gentle tannins corral intense depth… Read More
Bodega Argento Estate, Reserva Organic Fairtrade Malbec 2018
Ripe and expressive notes of classic violet, plum and blackberry nuances mingle with sweet spices and a satisfying toasty note. Harmoniously balanced, with a refined tannic structure and fabulous length;… Read More
Pascual Toso, Alta Syrah 2018
Northern Rhône style with greater muscle. Fleshy berry cascades copiously over a palate surfaced with touch of vanilla cinnamon. Meaty pepper glimmers throughout while polished tannins rope in shifting, flowing… Read More
Penedo Borges, Icono Malbec 2017
A lovely depth of fruit on the nose and palate with some sweet tobacco, dried meat, liquorice and warming turmeric coming out to play. A gorgeously textured and complex wine. Read More
El Tesoro, Red Blend NV
Intense violet and blackberry tones shift over candy floss and bubblegum in svelte, playful layers trimmed by nice funky lift in finish. Gleaming and poised for any day of the… Read More
Bodega Mascota Vineyards, La Mascota Malbec 2019
Excellent intensity of blackberry, cassis, plum and leather notes with some bitter chocolate and savoury elements lingering in the background and sleek, ripe tannins supporting. Deep, complex and wonderful. Read More
Sur Andino, Altaluvia Malbec 2018
Dark-fruited, enticing nose with cocoa, tobacco and herbs. On the palate, mulberries, violets and baking spices. Bold structure with mouth-watering acidity and firm tannins. Elegant and classy. Read More
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Is Malbec from Argentina Good? ›
It is very perfumed and fruity but also can be quite austere, still with a lot of character on the palate,' adds Paz Levinson, DWWA Regional chair for Argentina 2022. 'It is impressive how Malbec can be a transparent grape… it shows the place very well.Is French or Argentinian Malbec better? ›
Malbec taste by region
A Malbec from Argentina tends to be plummy and fruit-forward, with a velvety soft texture. In France, Malbec tends to have more structure, firmer tannins, and an inky dark, brooding quality. Buy the book, get a course.
Argentina doesn't just produce the best quality malbec wines, but they also produce some of the most affordable quality malbec wines.Where is the best wine in Argentina? ›
Mendoza is the largest Argentine wine region - accounting for more than two-thirds of the country's annual wine production. Its best vineyard sites are in Luján de Cuyo, Maipú, Uco Valley, and Tupungato.How do you pick a good Malbec wine? ›
- Origin – Ensure that the grapes used for the wine come from a single source and are pure Malbec.
- Region – There are a lot of great wines from a lot of regions. ...
- Colour – Malbec wine should be a deep dark red, with tones of violet. ...
- Alcohol content – Malbec will usually be around 14% alcohol.
Contrary to popular belief, red wine isn't always best served at room temperature. Malbec wine is no exception. Before serving Malbec, try popping it in the fridge for half an hour. This should cool it to just below room temperature, and will allow you to experience Malbec's full depth of flavor.Which is healthier Merlot or Malbec? ›
Malbec. As an especially thick-skinned variety, Malbec claims higher antioxidant levels than other red wines especially in terms of resveratrol. This variety has two to four times the amount of anti-inflammatory, health boosting antioxidants than other popular red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.Which is better Malbec or Merlot? ›
They both go very well with beef and cheese, although Merlot has a slightly larger range than that of Malbec. Malbec is also lower in acidity than Merlot, and has softer tannins than Merlot, even as a young wine.Why is Malbec so popular? ›
Malbec Global Popularity
One reason why Malbec is so popular, is because it is produced in 7 different countries: Malbec is most commonly grown in Argentina, due to the declining growth in France, with 76,000 hectares of vineyards. France has the second largest coverage of Malbec vines, with 15,000 hectares.
Malbec came to Argentina's largest wine region Mendoza in the mid-19th century. It came from France and had to adapt to the warmer and drier climate. It did so with gusto. Argentina is today by far the world's largest malbec country.
What food goes with Malbec? ›
You'll find Malbec a great match for steak, pork, and lamb, as well as fattier fish like salmon and poultry with dark meat. Game meat—like bison, ostrich, and venison—are also a safe bet. In addition to meat pairings, consider foods with richer sauces or more vibrant flavors.Is Malbec sweet or dry? › Is Malbec a cheap wine? ›
Malbec is so popular because not only is it affordable but it's easy to drink, it's a perfect pair to many different types of food, and it's a crowd pleaser. If you're looking an affordable, delicious alternative to the usual Merlot of Cabernet Sauvignon you should give Malbec a try!Is Malbec expensive? ›
All the wines are expensive ranging from $115 to $400 a bottle. But you don't have to buy and drink the best and most expensive malbec to celebrate Malbec World Day.How much is a bottle of wine in Argentina? ›
|Water (1.5 liter bottle)||0.85$|
|Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)||3.00$|
|Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle)||1.17$|
|Imported Beer (12 oz small bottle)||1.93$|
Argentina's wine growing regions are unique for the high altitude that they are produced in. That factor, along with low humidity, means that Argentinian wines rarely face issues that affect vineyards in other countries.What is the number one winemaking region in Argentina? ›
Mendoza is the largest of Argentina's five wine regions. It's home to over 1,200 wineries and sits right at the bottom of the Andes, stretching to more than 350,000 acres worth of land.How long does a bottle of Malbec wine last? ›
Full-Bodied Red Wine
When sealed and stored in a cool, dark place or a fridge, red wines like Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec can last for around four days. As a general rule, red wines with higher tannin and acidity tend to last longer once opened.
If you're an aspiring wine collector, malbec is an excellent choice because many varieties can last in storage for up to 20 years. The more full-bodied and robust types, often from France, can easily remain stable for 20 years if you keep the bottles in an ideal temperature and storage area.How long should you keep Malbec? ›
7–11 Years Aging Potential: Malbec wines with dark fruit flavors, notable acidity (“juiciness”), moderate tannin, and a chocolatey, oak-driven finish were usually recommended to be consumed within 7–11 years of the vintage.
What wines is Argentina known for? ›
Argentina Wine Regions
The region is best known for Malbec, but it also grows several other grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and more. The wineries in this region produce around 80% of the country's wine.
Malbec is a medium sweet wine, and Cabernet Sauvignon is a very dry wine. Sometimes it's hard to compare sweetness in wines, but this is a clear-cut case. You might still see Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon together in the same sweetness category. They may appear “medium,” but only if a few categories are listed.Why is Argentinian wine so good? ›
Argentina's wine growing regions are unique for the high altitude that they are produced in. That factor, along with low humidity, means that Argentinian wines rarely face issues that affect vineyards in other countries.How much is a bottle of wine in Argentina? ›
|Water (1.5 liter bottle)||0.85$|
|Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)||3.00$|
|Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle)||1.17$|
|Imported Beer (12 oz small bottle)||1.93$|
Maté is becoming increasingly popular and can be enjoyed at any time of day, on its own or as a blend. But did you know that it is THE national drink in Argentina, and that it is consumed as part of a unique ceremony?Which is sweeter Malbec or Merlot? ›
Let's start easy: both are considered dry red wines. Like Pinot Noir, Merlot wine has less than 0.5g of residual sugar, making it an extremely dry wine. On the other hand, Malbec wine is sweeter, with around 1.5g of residual sugar.Why is Malbec so popular in Argentina? ›
Malbec came to Argentina's largest wine region Mendoza in the mid-19th century. It came from France and had to adapt to the warmer and drier climate. It did so with gusto. Argentina is today by far the world's largest malbec country.Which type of red wine is the smoothest? ›
With that basic understanding of not too tannic and not too acidic, sommeliers know just the right wines for anyone asking for something smooth. Dustin Wilson, master sommelier and owner of Verve Wine, considers Pinot Noir, Gamay, Grenache, Trousseau, and Poulsard classic examples of smooth wine.Is Malbec the healthiest wine? ›
Malbec. As an especially thick-skinned variety, Malbec claims higher antioxidant levels than other red wines especially in terms of resveratrol. This variety has two to four times the amount of anti-inflammatory, health boosting antioxidants than other popular red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.What is the best type of red wine? ›
- Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet is many people's entry point to red wine simply because it's the most widely planted red grape. ...
- Merlot. If you love Cabernet Sauvignon, you should try Merlot next. ...
- Shiraz. ...
- Zinfandel. ...
- Pinot Noir. ...
- Gamay. ...
- Garnacha. ...
- Petite Sirah.
Is wine cheap in Argentina? ›
Anyone looking for value in wine, up and down the price range, should look to Argentina.Why is Malbec so good? ›
Full-flavoured foods pair best because Malbec is a fuller-bodied wine. Malbec produces red wines with medium acidity and medium tannins. Through the full flavours, and medium acidity, Malbec is less overwhelming or niche on the palette, making this flavour more popular.What wine is South America known for? ›
South America's largest wine growing country is famous for Malbec, but they do much more than just that! Cabernet Sauvignon grows very well in the high-and-dry climate of Mendoza along with their champion white wine, Torrontes. Argentina's newer regions include Patagonia, which creates exceptional Pinot Noir.How much is a Big Mac in Argentina? ›
Price for a Big Mac in Argentina from 2010 to 2022 (in U.S. dollars)
|Characteristic||Average price in U.S. dollars|
The U.S. dollar will go far in these 20 international cities.
|Location||Currency Exchange||Average Cost of Daily Expenses|
|Buenos Aires, Argentina||1 USD = 27.1010 ARS||$64|
The average salary in Argentina is 45,200 Argentine Peso (ARS) or 427.82 US Dollars per month (as per the exchange rate in February 2022). However, the amount differs based on the individual's profession, education, and city of residence.