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Sommelier Wine Awards 2009: New World

Malbec

One of the stars of this year’s competition, the New World Malbec category offered value for money, consistency and a customer-friendly style of wine that should suit every kind of establishment from gastropub to white tablecloth


If you accept that the Sommelier Wine Awards is a snapshot of what’s hot and what’s not in the world of wine, then we should all be paying close attention to Malbec – specifically Argentine Malbec. This category has grown massively since the competition started, and in 2009 it put together the sort of showing that should make everyone sit up and take notice.

Three Gold Listed wines across the full spread of prices is impressive enough, but to be backed up by eight Shortlisted wines, from £6 to £20 makes it clear that this is a wine style that offers both value for money and also strength in depth.

Consistency was certainly a strong point. There were few poor wines or wines that were out of balance – though Le Coq de Argent’s Olivier Marie sniffed that he felt some of the more expensive offerings were ‘monochromatic and pumped-up – wines on steroids’. In fact, there was more criticism of the top-end wines than the cheaper ones, which still had freshness along with their ripe fruit and spicy qualities.

‘The winemakers need to get an identity into their wines,’ said Auberge du Lac’s Adam Wilson. ‘It’s not just about fruit any more.’

But at the lower end – say, under £10 – there was very little criticism, with sommelier after sommelier finding a lot to like at prices that would walk off any list.

‘These were good – really good,’ said Hakkasan’s Philippe Loiseau. ‘They’re appealing to everyone’s palate, but still very definitely Malbec: dark, rich and spicy. A genuine red option for spicy food.’


These were really pretty good. A bit overpriced at the top end, but the entry-level were exceptional value for money wines. Rotislav Petrov, Corks Fine Wines


GOLD LIST

Filus Malbec 2007, Mendoza, Argentina
£6.99 @ Waverley TBS

Red and black fruits, with a smoky, cedary, almost medicinal nose. It’s big rather than complex, but the parts all fit together well. ‘Floral elegance,’ said an approving Olivier Gasselin.

Pascual Toso Reserva Malbec 2007, Barrancas, Maipu, Mendoza, Argentina
£8.20 @ Stratford’s Wine Agencies

Soft and sweet, with plenty of oak, but well integrated. Intense, rich and velvety, it simply cries out for a hunk o' barbecued beef. ‘Nice rich floral tones, and a dry finish,’ said Will Buckland.

Finca Perdriel Single Vineyard 2005, Bodega Norton, Lujan De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
£20.57 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars

Tobacco and spice, with dense black fruits and lots of oak. A big, big beast with serious savoury red fruits and velvety cow-taming tannins. ‘Very robust wine,’ said Raphael Thierry. ‘Huge flavours,’ added Andrea Bricarello.


SOMMELIER'S SHORTLIST

Cuma Malbec 2007, Michel Torino, Cafayate, Argentina
£5.48 @ Hallgarten Druitt

Very ripe red fruits, overlaid with a sprig of violets. Quite perfumed and attractive. ‘Concentration is there, but it’s not over-powerful,’ said Rostislav Petrov.

Kaiken Malbec 2006, Vina Montes/Kaiken, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
£6.33 @ HWCG Specialist

Intense blackcurrant fruits, overlaid with spicy cinnamon oak. Ripe tannins, good length.

Caliterra Tributo Malbec 2007, Colchagua Valley, Chile
£6.68 @ Hatch Mansfield

Fragrant plums and chocolate, with a slightly lifted, herby character on the palate. ‘Fragrant, ripe and good,’ said Kelvin McCabe.

Reserva Malbec 2006, Luigi Bosca, Mendoza, Argentina
£7.15 @ H&H Bancroft Wines

Malted toasty nose, with lifted raspberry fruit and a dry finish. ‘This is a serious wine, especially under £10,’ said Geoffroy Laville.

Finca Decero Malbec 2006, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina
£7.87 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars

Savoury, spicy fruits with plenty of aromatic complexity. ‘Mineral, graphite, rich and intense,’ said Olivier Marie.

Finca Perdriel Centenario 2004, Bodega Norton, Lujan De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
£9.99 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars

Concentrated, rich and modern in style on the nose, with a half-tonne bottle! Some subtle floral aromatics add lift to the sweet fruit, though. Juicy and more subtle than it first appears.

Collecion 2005, Cuvelier Los Andes, Mendoza, Argentina
£13.85 @ Novum Wines

Big fruits, with suitably chewy tannins in support. This needs a big hunk of rare beef. ‘Good balance,’ approved Olivier Marie.

Grand Vin 2005, Cuvelier Los Andes, Mendoza, Argentina
£20.45 @ Novum Wines

Nuts, chocolate and plums with a smoky top note and a long finish. Indisputably good wine. There were reservations about the price, but if you can sell a £50+ Malbec, well worth a look.


All prices quoted are single bottle, ex-vat. Prices were correct at the time of submission and judging at the start of 2009, but may be subject to change after publication.


Editorial feature from the Sommelier Wine Awards 2009.

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