Malbec is synonymous with Argentina in a way that is very rare for new-world wine regions. All fine wine is made from grape varieties of a single species of European origin called vitis vinifera. This helps explain why most European regions make wine from a diverse array of their own local grapes, while countries of the Americas or southern hemisphere work within a much, much narrower spectrum of more famous wine grapes. In most cases, as with California or Chile, the grapes that perform best are from blue-chip wine regions of France, like Burgundy’s chardonnay and Bordeaux’s cabernet sauvignon. These grapes were introduced to Argentina in the mid-1800s, around the time they were catching on elsewhere. But in a strange twist of fate, cuttings of the much more obscure French Malbec grape from Cahors adapted more easily to the nation’s terrain and climate than those international superstars. Malbec is a thick-skinned grape that needs dry, sunny conditions to ripen fully, so it produced far more appealing wines in Argentina than it did in cooler, cloudier France, and soon dwarfed plantings of other grapes. In wines like this one from Mendoza, Malbec offers deep dark blackberry jam flavors, with subtle floral aromatics and a plush velvety mouthfeel that lovers of red wine adore. And with more than five times as much acreage planted than any other country, Argentina will continue to own the Malbec category for generations to come.
Don Miguel Gascón Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina. $11.99 (regularly $14.99; sale price through May 27). PLCB Item #4827.