I sat down recently with Ignacio Lopez, winemaker from Argentina’s Bodegas Graffigna, to taste through a couple of his current wines and talk about the direction of he’s taking with malbec and the overall shift that has occurred with Argentina’s better malbec producers.
Lopez believes that malbec thrives in higher elevations. The combination of concentrated sunlight and cooler temperatures works well for hearty red grapes like this. Also important is choosing the right moment to pick. Ignacio does his best to ensure that every block achieves as much ripeness as possible without going over the top.
There’s been a noticeable increase in the number of producers, Graffigna among them, who now produce balanced malbec. Five years ago, many of the malbecs we saw on U.S. shelves were big on up-front fruit but didn’t have much body and had hardly any finish to speak of. Now there are more and more offerings loaded with both fruit and acidity. The balanced and food-friendly wines below reflect a distinct sea change in Argentina in general and with Graffigna specifically.
Here’s a look at a couple of their current wines.
Graffigna Malbec 2015 ($13)
This widely available wine is composed entirely of malbec sourced in regions including Tulum Valley, Pedernal Valley, and San Juan. If you only know one wine from Graffigna, this is likely it. Having sampled this bottling over a number of vintages, I can attest that it’s better than ever. Red cherry and strawberry aromas light up the nose along with a hint of white pepper. Savory herbs, raspberry, cherry, and more are evident on the rich but soft palate. Cranberry spices and bits of earth are evident on the long finish. Racy acid keeps things balanced and fresh. This is a really terrific red wine value at its price — delicious and representative of what malbec for everyday drinking should be.
Graffigna Santiago Graffigna 2014 (N/A)
This blend of malbec (55 percent), syrah (30 percent), and cabernet sauvignon (15 percent) is currently not imported into the U.S., though we may hope that it will be soon. The particulars vary from year to year based on what each crop delivers, but malbec often dominates. Aging of this vintage took place over 18 months in entirely new oak (85 percent French, 15 percent American). The wine, produced only in exceptional vintages, is named for the winery’s founder, and represents Graffigna’s desire to showcase the best the winery can achieve. Violet and ripe red fruit aromas dominate the incredibly appealing nose. The palate is loaded with red and black fruits, spice, and wisps of chicory. The long, prodigious finish shows fruit, some dust, and a core of spices. This wine is really appealing today but will improve over the next eight years or so and drink well for four to six years after that.