Drinks: Wines

Varietal Classics: Argentinian Malbec
Plenty of entries, and plenty of ambition, too, for this hot, new category. Just not quite enough balance in the wines

No question that this is a hot style at the moment, with more and more restaurants finding a decent, juicy bottle of Argie Malbec an essential part of any wine list. And that is the reason that this category has, for the first time since the birth of the SWA in 2007, been judged as a Varietal Classic.

‘Malbec appeals to an increasing number of customers, and the quality keeps going up and up,’ said Luigi Buonnano. ‘It works both at an entry-level price and as a top-class wine, so it is a very versatile grape variety.’

So, did the wines deliver? Well, yes and no. The best wines were very good value for money, with power, concentration and balance. But in rather too many cases, the winery’s ego got the better of it, with heavy bottles often an early indicator of over-extraction and too much ‘look at me, I’m serious’ oak. Even at low prices.

The best wines were those that showed typical expressive aromatics on the nose and
a wealth of fruit concentration on the palate, with sweet tannins and good length. Those that were also less ‘forced’ fared better.

In the end our sommeliers, perhaps controversially, since it was pushing right up against the price ceiling for the Varietal Classic category, selected the Colomé Estate for the Gold List, with Finca Decero, at a squeeze over £8, coming up fast on its heels.

Would they be confident of shifting such a pricey bottle once it’s been marked up?
‘If your sommelier is behind it, it’s not a problem,’ said Mark Deamer.

“Many more people are exposed to Argentinian Malbec now. I often don’t have any cheap Malbecs on my list. ” Martin Lam, Ransome’s Dock

“Malbec is able to complement a range of establishments from gastropubs to white tablecloth restaurants. It is certainly a must on any list. ”  Luigi Buonnano, Etrusca Restaurants


Colome Estate Malbec 2008, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina
£10.99 @ Enotria
SWA 2011 Gold List Olivier Marie loved the ‘wonderful, varietal, primary fruit character’, of this full-bodied wine. ‘With its liquorice, cardamom, blackcurrant and damson flavours, it shows ripeness, concentration, luxurious elevage and breed.’ ‘Very versatile, with many food-pairing options,’ said Maria Rodriguez.


Finca Decero Malbec 2009, Mendoza, Argentina
£8.03 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Great complexity for the price. Luigi Buonanno noted cloves, ink, liquorice and leather. A pleasing, balanced palate with good, dark red fruit, ripe tannins and a moderately long, elegant finish.


Finca Perdriel Malbec 2006, Mendoza, Argentina
£6.95 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Good varietal character on this Malbec, with good structure, ripe tannins and good concentration. ‘Well made,’ said Olivier Marie.

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Since its launch in March 2007, Imbibe magazine has established itself as the UK’s leading publication for on-trade drinks professionals. Imbibe’s editorial coverage takes in all the main drinks categories, from wine to water, spirits to soft drinks.

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