Malbec, once one of the most popular varieties in Bordeaux, has been on the decline in France for over a century. You still find it in Cahors where it produces a rich and inky red with a tannic grip that softens with age, but it is in Argentina that Malbec has really taken hold. The most widely planted red wine grape in that country, it has become an extremely popular import here in the States. Offering ripe and lush fruit, most of the first-wave Malbecs came in at bargain-basement prices. But in the last year or two, some higher end, age-worthy wines have hit our shores. Here are the panel's top picks:
2003 Broquel Malbec, $14.99
A new project from Trapiche, one of Argentina's best-known wineries, this upscale label strives for an international style with the emphasis on the fruit. The aromas have a lovely floral quality with light berry and plum backed by smoky spice, vanilla and chocolate. Rich and creamy berry fruit flavors dominate the palate nicely balanced by food-friendly acidity and soft tannins. New world Malbec at its best.
2001 Fantelli Malbec, $7.99
Nice bright aromas of currant, berry and choke cherry with light touches of allspice, pepper and sassafras. Exhibits a rich and velvety texture in the mouth with flavors of mulberry, cola and spice. Mouth-coating ripe tannins come through on the long, long finish. This is a silky and elegant bargain that is drinking beautifully now.
2002 Norton Reserve Malbec, $14.99
The reserve offering from this well-regarded winery offers aromas of sweet blackberry fruit, black pepper, vanilla and light oak. Beautiful balance and length in the mouth with dark cherry and berry flavors mingling with light pepper and spice, all against a smoky background. The creamy finish goes on and on in this elegantly structured wine.
This week's panel: Fawn Caveney, Tastevin; Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op and Cindy Limber, Bardenay.