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Quick Bites: Mission Malbec: A transcendental tasting tour 

Malbec: A nice little french grape gone badSome friends recently returned from Argentina with a once-in-a-lifetime bottle of Alta Vista Alto Malbec 1999, complete with

click to enlarge Malbec: A nice little french grape gone bad
  • Malbec: A nice little french grape gone bad
Malbec: A nice little french grape gone badSome friends recently returned from Argentina with a once-in-a-lifetime bottle of Alta Vista Alto Malbec 1999, complete with a 3-digit price tag. With characteristic generosity, they invited a small group over for a Malbec tasting. The theme was decidedly Argentine, and contributions included the $7 Alberti 154 2006, Martino 2003 ($20), Casa Marguery 2005 ($15), and Nandu 2004 ($15). In a sporting mood and with nothing else to offer, I added Domaine de la Pepiere, a $13 Loire Valley Malbec blend.
This turned out to be a real light-weight, and like Popeye without his spinach, a mere gaze from the swarthy Blutos assembled across the table caused it to crumple. Petrified, it attempted to scrabble back into the bottle upon pouring and left the ring without a backwards glance. Now to be fair, on a level field, this is a nice little wine, and I felt a representation from the varietal's pays de origin necessary.


Malbec is French, of course, and was brought to Argentina in 1868 where it gained weight in the hot Andean sun and no longer resembles the rustic French versions from Loire and Cahors. We quickly tossed the effete back, or out, and set to the real work at hand, beginning with the Alberti. What a great deal. Buy some, now! Sleek but full-bodied, it brought out fresh ground green and pink peppercorns, leather and charcoal. The Casa Margeury made me say "wow!" High octane solvent on the nose, black fruit and old gaucho saddle leather, we all agreed this dark purple beauty was classic South American Malbec. The Nandu failed to materialize for any of us, unbalanced and angular, with wooly tannins; it might hold up on its own, but not against such an intimidating match-up. The Martino was a good, agreeably classic Malbec, but too flabby for my taste. Finally, on to the sublime...The Alta Vista, with nearly a decade in bottle, went from head to toe, toasty and warm, evoking images of a land I've never seen with transcendent clarity. It stole the show but several of the el cheepos held up surprisingly well. Two thumbs up for South American Malbec! - Thomas Rodhouse

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