As the global economy continues to worsen, it seems that the wine market is directing itself towards high quality value wines. This past weekend at Chicago’s Windy City Wine Festival in Grant Park, I spoke with a distributor from Gallo who said that the company is banking on Malbec as the next big thing, comparing it to the surge of Australian wines a few years back before the market turned against Shiraz (again, could someone remind me why that happened?) The nation of Argentina, and specifically the Mendoza region, has created a niche for itself creating wines consisting of 100% Malbec. I point out that the grape is not blended because of the fact that the origins of the varietal lie in the storied Bordeaux region of France, where Malbec is often blended with wines of predominant Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon concentration, rarely exceeding 10% of the blend. However, the unique, minerally terroirs of Argentina’s wine regions provide enough earthly backbone to balance the ripe, jammy nature of the Malbec grape, and as a result find themselves in a situation to build somewhat of a monopoly in its high-quality production. Imitations in the United States in an attempt to capture market share based on the hype have thus far fallen short. Better yet, these Argentinian examples are ready to be consumed young, and show deep purple fruit character offset by mocha and mineral dryness that prove to be a great complement to grilled red meats. One of the best producers of Malbec in Mendoza (although there are many) is Dominio del Plata, which boasts its Susana Balbo and Ben Marco labels, which continue to produce exceptional wines year after year without vintage discrimination. And that is perhaps the best thing about Malbec: the best examples succeed purely on their deep, ripe and velvety purple fruit character with undertones of mocha, a flavor profile that does not necessitate especially specific weather conditions to prosper.

DOMINIO DEL PLATA SUSANA BALBO MALBEC MENDOZA 2008- 90 Points, $25, 7000 Cases Produced- Mocha, blackberry and a hint of green pepper earth combine on the nose. Velvety, full-bodied and dense but not at all jammy, with deep mocha, mineral and dark understated red fruit notes. A hint of leather creeps in late with mocha spice through the long finish. This is all about depth and elegance, with hardly any ripe fruit element, rare in such a young Malbec.

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