April 30, 2006 MSNBC
TASTING NOTES: Our tasting of some two dozen Argentinean malbecs (and one Chilean) spanned vintage years 2002 through 2005 and yielded a handful of quality picks. Blends with under 70 percent malbec weren’t included in the tasting.
Here are 4 wines sold in Texas that made the cut:
Susana Balbo 2004 Mendoza ($26, Vine Connections): The reigning queen of Argentinean wine earns her reputation on what’s in the bottle. This latest release blends in 10 percent cabernet sauvignon, which helps bulk up its structure and aromatics. Dark and tarry, with dried tobacco, nutmeg, leather and a raspberry overtone amid sweet licorice from 80 percent new French oak. Chewy and thick, with the presence of a smoke-filled room. For the budget conscious, Balbo also just released a 2005 young-vines malbec from her second label, Crios de Susana Balbo.
Mapema 2003 Mendoza ($18, Vine Connections): Big, brambly fruit, with cocoa and black plum. The tannins are hefty and mouth-drying. Truly requires food, but the solid fruit still comes forward.
Ben Marco 2004 Mendoza ($19, Vine Connections): The result of Susana Balbo’s husband, Pedro Marchevsky, trying to make a wine that shows off the terroir of Mendoza. Some drinkers might be thrown off by the floral, soapy notes from 12 percent bonarda (an aromatic Italian grape grown widely in Argentina), but it’s complex, with baked cherry and dry mineral character. Fine tannin on the end and a delicate, tapered finish demonstrate its finesse. The blend also includes 1 percent cabernet franc.
Gusto 2002 Mendoza ($24, Vine Connections): The Southern Hemisphere project of Guy Davis from Sonoma’s Davis Family Vineyards. In addition to 11 months in 50 percent new oak, this benefits from the extra years of age. Warm, with black cherry and a green-leaf note. Still packs notable fruit, though there’s a slightly acrid overtone in the finish.
Malbec ROCKS, especially Malbec that Vine Connections imports to the USA! - Ali