It is difficult to find a bad malbec from Argentina, but the field is increasingly crowded, making it harder to find those that excel. Major producers Catena, Trapiche, Zuccardi and Luigi Bosca make reliably excellent malbec at various price levels. Here are a few others that stand out from the crowd.
**1 / 2
Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, $21
Trivento makes an excellent line of malbecs, differing in intensity, oak treatment and price. The Golden Reserve strikes the best balance, with rich color, spicy oak and deep fruit flavors, followed by grippy tannins. It also has a ridiculously heavy bottle, which Argentina’s marketers seem to think will impress gullible American wine drinkers; in other words, it could be a dollar or two cheaper with more moderate glass.
RNDC: Available in the District at Circle Wine & Liquor, MacArthur Beverages, Zola Wine & Kitchen; on the list at Cosmos Club. Available in Maryland at Bin 604 Wine Sellers in Baltimore, Dawson’s Liquors in Severna Park, DiWine Spirits in Pikesville, Wine Cellars of Annapolis, Ye Old Spirit Shop in Frederick; on the list at Antrim 1844 in Taneytown, Cantina D’Italia in Annapolis, Dutch’s Daughter in Frederick, Liberatore’s in Timonium, Zapata’s in Columbia. Available in Virginia at Harris Teeter in Arlington, Wegmans in Leesburg; on the list at Idylwood Grill & Wine Bar in Falls Church.
**1 / 2
Mendoza, Argentina, $20
From winemaker Alvaro Espinoza, this is a product of the team at Chile’s Veramonte winery. It cries out for steak, with its meaty flavors and polished style. It is new to this market and right now can be found here only in restaurants. The price given is suggested retail.
RNDC: On the list in the District at Bobby Van’s, Calvert Cafe.
Mendoza, Argentina, $18
Brooding, deep and tannic, this wine is rather like the guy at the dinner party who’s intriguing and a little scary.
M Touton Selection: Available in the District at Cairo Wine & Liquor, Cork & Fork, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Pearson’s, S&S Liquors, Subway Liquors II, Watergate Wine & Beverage. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s in Bethesda; the Bottle Shop in Potomac; Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery and General Store in Hyattsville; the Italian Market and Mills Fine Wine and Spirits in Annapolis; Old Farm Liquors and Viniferous in Frederick; Town & Country Wine Liquor Etc. in Easton; on the list at Black’s Bar and Kitchen and Food, Wine & Co. in Bethesda. Available in Virginia at Arrowine, Curious Grape in Arlington; Balducci’s in Alexandria and McLean; Basic Necessities in Nellysford; Cork & Fork in Gainesville; Whole Foods Market locations in Alexandria and Vienna; Wine Warehouse in Charlottesville; on the list at Evo Bistro in McLean, Orzo in Charlottesville.
Mendoza, Argentina, $12
It has straightforward blueberry flavors embraced by earth, with nice body and acidity. This is an easy-drinking wine suitable for well-dressed company.
Winebow: Widely available in the District, including at Congressional Liquors, Georgetown Wine & Spirits, various Harris Teeter locations, Hayden’s Liquor, Magruder’s, Rodman’s, Union Wine & Liquors, various Whole Foods Market locations.
Mendoza, Argentina, $12
This is light and delightful, with an appealing floral note. A nice red for casual foods, with enough stuffing to stand up to grilled meats.
Elite: Available in the District at Rodman’s, various Whole Foods Market locations; on the list at Bistrot Lepic, Cafe Bonaparte. Available in Virginia at Planet Wine and Unwined in Alexandria, and various Whole Foods Market Locations.
*1 / 2
Mendoza, Argentina, $8
Juicy and fresh, this new vintage is still a little rough-and-tumble (in a good way). But it has been selling so quickly that the importer is probably trying to rush the 2011 through fermentation. Buy this charmer by the case for your burgers-on-the -grill summer red. The Gran Reserva, at just a few dollars more, is also good.
M Touton Selection: Widely available in the District, Maryland and Virginia.
***Exceptional **Excellent *Very Good
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.