Malbec tasting in honour of Malbec World Day

By / Wine + Drinks / May 16th, 2019 / 11
malbec tasting

Sure, Malbec World Day came and went back on April 17th (see my report and initial tasting notes here), but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped tasting. Ah, yes…so many Malbecs, so little time. But no worries, I stuck with it. Here are the fruits of my ongoing labours (if you call tasting some great wines “labour”).

(Please bear in mind: these notes apply to wines all made – mostly – from the same grape and grown – mostly – in the same area, so there will be a certain “variation on a theme” happening).

Alamos Malbec 2017

The Catena family – the name behind the Alamos brand – has been cultivating vineyards in Mendoza for over 100 years, and is a pioneer Malbec producer. Bright, fresh aromas bursting with ripe black cherry, blackberry, spice and wet gravel give way to a smooth, seductive mouthfeel, lovely balance, and layers of fresh black cherry/black raspberry flavours.

BenMarco Malbec 2016

Fruit for this intense Malbec is sourced from high altitude Mendoza vineyards. The nose offers up alluring sandalwood, violet, and chocolate-coasted cherry nuances that re-emerge in the mouth, along with suggestions of black pepper, leather, and cedar chip. There’s a serious spine of balanced tannin and acidity that makes this the perfect stye to accompany a slab of Argentinian beef, grilled rare (or Albertan, if that’s a bit easier to find).

Domaine Bousquet Malbec 2018

French winemaking skill combined with Argentina’s fantastic climate and terroir combine to bring us a certified organic Malbec from vineyards 1,200 meters above sea level. Cranberry, pomegranate, red apple, cassis, and mild white pepper all make a showing on the nose. It’s quite supple and juicy in the mouth, with ample, sweet black fruit, with an underpinning of dried herbs and garrigue.

Donna Paula Malbec 2017

Fruit for this wine is sourced from high-altitude vineyards situated 1350 meters above sea level. Forward violet and mint on the nose, with nuances of bell pepper, red liquorice, and red apple. Still youthful, with medium tannins balanced by rich, dark berry fruit and balanced acidity. A couple more years in the cellar should round things out a bit more. If drinking now, give this wine an hour or so breathing time.

Estiba I Malbec 2018

Clocking in at a “mere” 13 per cent ABV (most tasted have been in the 14 to 14.5 per cent range), this Malbec from Bodegas Esmeralda is aromatically quite enchanting, with crushed fresh blueberry enhanced with bell pepper and black liquorice. Despite its youth, it drinks nicely. Mid-weight, with eucalyptus and cherry flavours, but with some grainy tannins that dry the tongue a bit. Give this one some cellar and/or decanting time before enjoying.

Luigi Bosca Malbec 2016

Lots of up-front dark fruit here, enhanced by some toasty oak/vanilla and suggestions of flint/gunpowder. Very forward and approachable, this is a textbook Mendoza Malbec brimming with layers of concentrated blackcurrant/redcurrant jam, mint, and very subtle hint of coconut. Long, smooth, and seductive on the finish.

Manos Negras “Atrevida” Malbec 2016

Super-forward aromatics showcasing kirsch, eucalyptus, lilac, coffee and blueberry jam give way to round, supple, and surprisingly elegant flavours redolent of many of the usual suspects (ie., blueberry, plum, tobacco leaf, smoky mineral). Very well balanced and poised, with really no note misplaced. Despite its power, it’s quite gentle overall.

Padra Negra Malbec “Reserve” 2017

Certified organic (by a bevy of certification bodies), this inky, opaque Uco Valley Malbec is vinified from fruit harvested from high-altitude, volcanic vineyards at the foot of the Cordillera Mountains. Smoky and forward, with hints of cordite and crushed bramble. Still young, with some still-gritty tannin, it nonetheless packs enough juicy, concentrated black fruit flavours for it to be enjoyed now with adequate aeration.

Pascual Toso “Limited Edition” Malbec 2016

Smoky black cherry/raspberry aromatics with underpinnings of vanilla custard, caramel and white pepper. Silky and robust in the mouth, with flavours that lean toward blueberry pie, espresso, and dark chocolate. Very nicely balanced, with no sharp edges and all flavour components in harmony.

Terrazas de los Andes Malbec “Reserva” 2015

I had the good fortune to visit the impressive Terrazas de los Andes winery a few years back, and it’s great to see its wines in the market. This Malbec is certainly crafted on Old World values, with white pepper, wet gravel, and cassis/vanilla bean aromatics. In the mouth it’s polished, seductive, and elegant, and it dances away on notes of blackberry and dried herbs.

The Owl and the Dust Devil 2015

Okay, so there’s more Cabernet Sauvignon in this blend than Malbec (which also includes Petit Verdot and Tannat…interesting), but what the hey. The back label offers an interesting read, telling how owls and dust devils interact in the Remolinos Vineyard high in the Andes foothills. An almost Bordeaux-like nose, with lead pencil, violet, cocoa powder, and cedar gives way to a silky palate with flavours of cassis and blueberry that linger as they slowly fade.

Zuccardi “Q” Malbec 2015

Fruit for this intense Malbec is sourced from vineyards in Paraje Atamia and Vista Flores 1,000 metres or more above sea level. Blackberry and ripe plum aromas buttressed with wet gravel and woodsmoke segue to round, smooth palate featuring flavours of damson plum, black cherry, and mocha. Persistent on the finish, with herbal/woody notes.


Tod Stewart is the contributing editor at Quench. He's an award-winning Toronto-based wine/spirits/food/travel/lifestyle writer with over 35 years industry experience. He has contributed to newspapers, periodicals, and trade publications and has acted as a consultant to the hospitality industry. No matter what the subject matter, he aims to write an entertaining read. His book, 'Where The Spirits Moved Me' is now available on Amazon and Apple.

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