One of the most compelling red wines we tasted at a recent NYV blind tasting session turned out to be this Argentinean Malbec. Another Malbec you say? Aren’t there quite enough in the market already? One of the best things about blind tastings is that you have to check your assumptions and beliefs at the door. It is the wine which counts, not the name on the label. So here was a dark, luminous red with a captivating bouquet of blueberry, cassis, licorice, smoky tobacco and mushrooms. On the palate the favorable impression made by the wine’s appearance and aroma was amply confirmed. A rich yet restrained sexy smoothness of texture with a wealth of dark fruits and subtle oak flavors all supported by abundant yet gentle tannins. The wine was both immediately appealing and sophisticated—not a combo that is often found in a young red wine. Guesses as to origin and grape type included Grenache from the southern Rhone, Tempranillo from a warm part of Rioja to an Australian mixture of Grenache and Syrah from a cooler Aussie region. To our surprise the wine turned out to be a Malbec from Argentina. But not “just another Malbec,” this is a wine from Argentina’s first and foremost female oenologist, Susana Balbo. Ms. Balbo has been making wine since the early 1980s and earned a reputation for making some of the most elegant, harmonious and fairly priced wines in South America. Many of her male colleagues tend to make louder, heavier wines. Ms. Balbo understands as well as anyone in the new world that the true measure of a wine is whether the taster wants to come back for more or is fatigued after a glass. I have never tasted a Susana Balbo that I did not want to have again. Seductive and friendly wines which delight rather than overwhelm the palate. Ms. Balbo understands wine and she understands the human palate. This particular offering she has named Crios which means offspring. The wine is made from 14 year old vines which will, when they are older, become part of her more expensive bottlings. The fermented juice is aged for nine moths in a mixture of older French and American barrels—just enough to give the wine structure but not so much as to overwhelm the fruit. We all thought the quality justified a price tag of $25-30. When we learned the true price of $16.99 we all gasped. This is simply one of the finest under $20 reds we have tasted in a while. One of the tasters suggested that the wine would work brilliantly with truffled risotto. At its price point, the truffle becomes affordable!
Bob Millman, New York Vintners
Argentina • Mendoza • Malbec