Malbec continues to grow in popularity and why not? The grape originated in France, where it is still used in Bordeaux blends as well as the red wines of nearby Cahors, but it takes on a rather different character in the southern hemisphere. It is Argentina's best-known red grape, producing a wine that is both less tannic and more supple than most European versions. Remarkably approachable in its youth, it also has real cellar potential. The stars of this tasting are not the cheapest Malbecs on the market, but they are all still quite affordable. Here are the top three:
2005 Andeluna Malbec Reserve, $16.99
This seductive wine shows what a couple of years of bottle age can do for Malbec. It offers elegantly complex aromas of soft plum, dark berry, chocolate, leather and earth. A supple wine with a velvety texture, it's marked by fresh blueberry fruit, cherry liqueur and fig, all layered with creme brulee, sweet spice, vanilla and a touch of nutmeg. The tannins are nicely resolved and the finish, long and smooth.
2007 Cueva de las Manos Malbec Reserve, $13.99
Lush and lovely aromas of dark plum and cocoa are laced with nuances of anise and spice. The sweet bing cherry and chocolate flavors are ripe and round, and the long, silky finish is marked by smooth tannins and soft acidity. This fruit-forward wine shows great balance and good length, all wrapped up in an approachable style.
2007 La Posta Malbec, Angel Paulucci, $14.99
Classic Argentinean Malbec aromas of blueberry, blackberry and mocha are backed by light toasty oak, vanilla and a lovely hint of violet and cola. This wine offers a big mouthful of that same fruit along with deep, dark chocolate and a hit of spice. La Posta represents three different growers, including this Malbec's producer Angel Paulucci, who planted his first vines back in 1960.
This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Leslie Young, Boise Co-op Wine Shop