Malbec from Argentina commonly produces full-bodied, richly textured wines with dark fruit flavors and firm, grippy tannins. There is plenty to explore at the upper end of budgets (between $50 to $100 and beyond) that spend notable time in oak and have subsequent aging potential. But some of those quintessential characteristics also find themselves in versions worthy of any weekday and for less than $25.
Malbec originates in the Cahors region of Southwest France, where it goes by the name Cot. Unsurprisingly, it found its way to nearby Bordeaux and became an official component of the famous blend, joining Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Carménère, and Petit Verdot. However, a significant portion of vines was destroyed following a severe frost in 1956, wiping out much of its presence in the region.
Following the detrimental frost, and subsequent dwindling of Old World Malbec popularity, its reputation began prospering in the New World, particularly in Argentina, where the grape is now considered the country’s flagship variety. According to Wines of Argentina, it accounts for nearly 40% of red grape plantings and has been the most cultivated variety in the country since 2011.
Malbec takes on slightly different characteristics depending on its growing location. Still, it thrives most in Argentina’s Cuyo region (Mendoza, San Juan, and La Rioja), accounting for a quarter of grape plantings. From valley floors to thousands of feet above sea level, here are a handful of noteworthy Argentine Malbec for under $25.
Paraje Altamira, Valle de Uco, Mendoza
Susana Balbo has been integral to Argentina’s wine trade for four decades. She was the first woman in the country to complete her enology degree in 1981, working for others — including Michel Torino, Bodega Martins, and Bodega Catena Zapata — before starting Dominio del Plata Winery in 1999.
The grapes for the Signature Malbec come from Paraje Altamira, a GI with sandy and loamy soils, at a considerable elevation of 3,770 feet (1,150 m.a.s.l).
The wine, which includes a small portion of Merlot (4%), is an intensely juicy rendition with ripe blackberry, plum, blueberry, and black licorice aromas. Its not-quite-full-body highlights silky tannins with a nice thread of acidity driving through its finish.
Reserve Malbec 2020
Cafayate Valley, Salta
Cafayate is one of the highest winemaking regions in the world, sitting at 5,600 feet above sea level (1,700m). The desert climate and high altitude mean the grapes receive intense sunlight throughout the day, causing the skins to thicken early in the season to protect themselves against the sun.
Free-draining chalky loam soils, in conjunction with very low rainfall and humidity, causes vine stress. The result is less vegetation but an increase in grape quality and flavor concentration.
This 100% Malbec sees eight months of aging in American & French oak barrels, imparting soft spice and woody aromas. The palate offers structure, yet is still gentle in texture, emitting juicy fruit flavors and sweet tannins through a weighty finish.
Reserva Malbec 2020
Valle de Uco, Mendoza
Santa Julia offers phenomenal consistency vintage after vintage. The portfolio was created by Argentinian wine icon José Alberto Zuccardi in honor of his daughter Julia. Santa Julia wines are recognized worldwide as among the best values.
Santa Julia Malbec comes from various vineyards across the Uco Valley. Its aromas are bright and ripe, with loads of red and black fruits like cherries, blueberries and plums. The flavors mirror the aromatics, offering mouthwatering freshness with just a hint of sweet vanilla and allspice.
Remolinos Vineyard Malbec 2019
The Remolinos Vineyard, the estate’s single vineyard in the Agrela sub-appellation, gets its name from the soil. As the winery’s website describes: “the little whirlwind spiral formations of soil build in the afternoon as the gentle wind lifts the dry soil from the paths of the vineyard into swaying ‘dust devils’.”
These ‘dust devils’ impart unmistakable energy into the wine. Vibrant acidity and brawny tannins lead the charge with a red fruit core and floral undertow. With 14 months of French oak aging, there’s plenty of backbone, with the ability to drink several years down the road.
Paraje Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza
Rocamadre nods to the past while illustrating the excitement of Argentina’s winemaking future. Juanfa Suarez, who originally studied music at Berklee College of Music in Boston, is fourth generation in Paraje Altamira. He began Rocamadre in 2017 with his wife, Cecilia, while continuing to work with his father at Finca Suarez, which he has done since 2010.
Rocamadre’s 25-year-old Malbec vines live in the Andes Mountains foothills in Paraje Altamira. There, Juanfa and Cecilia practice sustainable farming, relying solely on Andean meltwater to irrigate their crops.
The wine’s aromatics are intensely fruit-forward. Although, there’s a heavy dose of savory given a portion of the grapes were whole cluster fermented. The high altitude lends refreshing acidity with a nuanced minerality through a sturdy finish.