Argentina continues to gain recognition for its juicy, steak-friendly Malbecs, the country's flagship red variety. For a good value, look for the Crios de Susana Balbo line from one of the country's most experienced winemakers.
Susana Balbo has been making wine since 1981 and is one of the rare women at the top of the field in Argentina; she also works as a consultant internationally. She makes her signature wines at Dominio del Plata winery, a project with viticulturist Pedro Marchevsky, who has his own BenMarco label. Barrels not selected for the more expensive wine go into the Crios ("offspring") label, meant to be drunk young and priced around $15 (though I picked this bottle up on sale for $12). Along with the 100 percent Malbec, Balbo also makes a Crios Syrah-Bonarda blend, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a rosé from Malbec and a Torrontés, a floral white.
Tangy and minerally, the 2008 Crios Malbec showed bright aromas and flavors of sweet blueberry and blackberry; modest notes of vanilla and spice illustrate her judicious use of oak. It's straightforward, with a juicy finish and fairly plush tannins. I gave it 88 points, non-blind. It's great with a steak, but also enjoyable on its own and would make a great party wine. As a plus, the wine comes in a screw-capped bottle, and its distinctive label—a big hand (hers) encompassing two smaller hands (her two children's)—stands out on store shelves. With 40,000 cases made, the Malbec should also be fairly easy to find.
WineSpectator.com members: Get tasting notes and scores for recently rated Malbecs from Argentina.
• Plus, learn more about Argentina's wines by reading More Malbec Please, James Molesworth's tasting report in the Dec. 15, 2008, issue.