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The Magnificence of Malbecs

Argentinean offers are lush and (mostly) well priced

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While it originated in France, malbec has achieved its greatest success in Argentina. In the past 10 years there has been an explosion in the number of Argentine malbecs available in the valley. Given the ripe and lush character of the wines, coupled with their reasonable (for the most part) pricing, it's no wonder that they have gained such popularity. Here are this week's top picks:

2007 Famiglia Bianchi Malbec, $16.99

Lovely, lightly sweet aromas pour from the glass, highlighted by supple raspberry, vanilla, coffee, cedar and just a whiff of mint. This is a very well-integrated and nicely structured wine with impeccable balance where creamy cherry, berry and plum fruit fill the palate. The finish shows remarkable persistence and is colored by anise, chocolate and chamomile tea.

2008 Lopez Noceti 1919 Malbec, $11.99

Although Noceti is a fairly new winery (founded in 1998), the vineyards they own were first planted in 1919--thus the name. There's an enticing earth and herbal quality to the nose of this wine, marked by crushed red berry, green tea and soft oak aromas. The flavors are well balanced, offering ripe cherry and dark plum fruit that's matched by just the right hit of acidity. Soft tannins come through on the finish.

2008 Luca Malbec, $28

Best known for her role at Bodega Catena Zapata, this is Laura Catena's no-expense-spared attempt to make small-lot, world-class wine. Named for her first-born child, Catena's malbec has beautifully expansive aromas with heady plum and blackberry fruit, backed by dusty mineral and mocha. The flavors are rich, but not overwhelming, with ripe cherry, dark chocolate and a light touch of licorice. The pursuit of perfections has its price.