Over the last decade, Americans have consumed more malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, each year. Since 2005 alone, U.S. imports have quintupled. Why? The wines consistently deliver full flavor and high quality at accessible prices. Today, Mendoza’s malbecs are beginning to share the spotlight with a new regional star, Bordeaux-style blends. It is a natural development, in a sense. Malbec (along with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and petit verdot) is one of five grapes permitted in blends of bordeaux in France, though it fell out of favor after the phylloxera epidemic. More to the point, it is a sign that Mendoza is maturing as a wine region.
Mendoza’s vineyard managers have learned to successfully pair grape varieties with vineyard sites according to altitude and soil type. Meanwhile, its winemakers have discovered the potential benefits of balancing the raw power of malbec’s black fruit and fine tannins with the structure and spice of their high-altitude cabernet sauvignon, the fleshiness of merlot, the red fruit and violets of cabernet franc, and the acidity of petit verdot. At their best, Mendoza’s Bordeaux-style blends bring a level of complexity heretofore unseen in wines from the region. The Achaval Ferrer Quimera illustrates this point with eloquence. Drawing upon a wide palate, it offers clarity, coherence, depth, length, and a distinctive sense of place, without a trace of angularity or overripe fruit. Cheval des Andes, the collaboration between Château Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de los Andes, pioneered the category and they remain very much a regional standard bearer for blending with elegance.