By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 7 March 2020

Argentinian reds are hitting their sweet spot, shifting from powerful blockbusters to more restrained elegant wines – but still with ripe juicy flavours and great value for money. 

My top dozen reds under £25 contains a diverse collection of grapes from juicy succulent Bonarda, spicy Syrah, herby Cabernet Franc, elegant Pinot Noir to Argentina’s emblematic variety, the rich damsony Malbec.

Uco Valley, Mendoza: EXQUISITE ARGENTINIAN MALBEC 2019 (13.5%)
£5.99 Aldi

Every supermarket has its own label Malbec, but Aldi’s simple unoaked version was preferred by our tasters – although I do not think it is as good as Aldi’s previous Organic Argentinian Malbec, now discontinued.  High altitude vines in Tupungato in the foothills of the Andes give perfumed plummy aromas, fresh red fruit flavours, smooth tannins with a nippy twist to the finish. 

Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza: HEY MALBEC! 2018 Matias Riccitelli (14%)  ***STAR VALUE***
£10.99/£12.99 Majestic Wine

Salta-born Matias Riccitelli has opened his own winery in Las Compuertas in Mendoza making superb wines with eye-catching labels.  His Old Vine Semillon is one of Argentina’s most serious whites, but he also knows how to knock out superbly priced Malbec at affordable prices.  Aged in concrete with a touch of oak this has a rich gutsy black-fruited opulent peppery style with soft approachable tannins.

Mendoza: ESTACION 1883 BONARDA 2017 Trapiche (14%)
£11-£12.99 Fine Wine Musselburgh; Great Western Wine; Simply Wines Direct; The Drink Shop

Italy’s Bonarda grape might not have Malbec’s depth of colour and plummy richness, but it can make an appetisingly juicy red.  Sweet fruits and liquorice aromas, light smoky notes, hints of spice, voluptuous blackcurrant fruits with light oak notes – more concentrated than other Argentinian Bonardas on the market.

Uco Valley, Mendoza: ‘1300’ MALBEC 2018 Andeluna (14%) ***STAR BUY***
£10.99 Simply Wines Direct; The Drink Shop; £12 Strictly Wine; £13 Hay Wines

Andeluna winery was named after the Argentine moon which brightens Tupungato’s night skies in this stunning location in Andes foothills.  Vines are grown up at 1300 metres with bright clear sunny days to ripen grapes and cool nights to retain acidity.  With its strawberry and damson aromas, dark chocolate, kirsch, spice, sweet fruit flavours – this scored highly with our tasters.

Alto Agrelo, Mendoza: LA FLOR MALBEC 2018 Pulenta Estate (14%)
£12-£14.50 Wine Trust 100; Berry Bros & Rudd; Woodwinters

If you like your Malbec plush succulent and full, with violet aromas, sweet ripe damson fruits, vanilla and tobacco notes and velvet smooth texture, you will love Pulenta’s style.  Brothers Hugh and Eduardo Pulenta run this historic family winery in Alto Agrelo, Lujan de Cuyo, one of Mendoza’s prime red wine areas at 980 metres altitude.

Pedernal, San Juan: PYROS ‘160 BARREL SYRAH 2015 (14%)
£19 St Andrews Wine Co; Lea & Sandeman; The Whisky Exchange

High altitude Syrah grown at over 1,400 metres in a cult new area of San Juan called Pedernal.  Rich blackberry fruits, liquorice undertones, meaty flavours with herby resonance and marked acidity – sleeker and more elegant than many South American Syrahs from warmer areas.

Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza: VINALBA GRAN RESERVADO MALBEC 2016 (14.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£14.99/£16.99 Majestic Wine

Bordeaux-trained Herve Fabre’s Gran Reservado was a high scorer with our tasters who loved its succulent generous sweet plummy fruits, firm structure and long complex finish.  This is certainly more in the muscular blockbuster rather than sleek elegant style, but it offers fabulous value for money.

Calchaqui, Salta: ‘GRAN CORTE’ AMALAYA MALBEC-CABERNET FRANC 2016 Colome (14.5%)
£15.50-£16.99 Aitken Wines; Cornelius Wines; Ellies Cellar; Lockett Bros; Luvians; Valhalla’s Goat; Vino Wines; Exel Wines; Fountainhall Wines

In Argentina’s far northern region of Salta, vines grow at over 1,800 metres altitude on poor rocky sandy dry soils.  Amalaya’s wine range is really impressive, I particularly love their white wines.  This quirky blend of 85% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Tannat aged in French and American oak is the best of their reds: loved its spicy, herby notes and elegant finish.

Patagonia: SAURUS SELECT PINOT NOIR 2017 Familia Schroeder (14%)
£15.99 Cheers Winemerchants; Viader Wines; Exel Wines, Perth

Schroeder make stunning Malbec at the same price, but I was impressed by the progress they have made with the tricky Pinot Noir grape.  Cool climate semi-desert Neuquen in Patagonia, well south of Mendoza, is very suited to Pinot Noir.  This has bright floral aromas, light strawberry fruits, minerally undertones and fine tannins.

Uco Valley, Mendoza: ALTURA MALBEC 2017 Norton (14.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£17.70 Corking Wines; Hic Wine Merchants

For those who love big reds, this Malbec has deep dark colour, intense cassis aromas, rich blackcurrant flavours, firm structured, high acidity and rich powerful length.  An excellent example of an Uco Valley Malbec, with vines planted over 1000 metres, made by historic Norton winery.  Altura means altitude. 

Rio Negro, Patagonia: BARDA PINOT NOIR 2018 Bodegas Chacra (13%)
£23.95 Lea & Sandeman

From the grandson of the creator of cult Italian wine Sassicaia.  Piero Incisa della Rocchetta planted ungrafted Pinot Noir vines and 37,000 poplar trees to shelter them back in 1990 at his Rio Negro estate.  The winds here can be fierce, rainfall very low and diurnal temperature range wide resulting in low yields.  This Pinot has superb bright pure fruits, freshness, structure and elegance.  The best Argentine Pinot Noir I have tasted to date.

Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza: VINA 1924 ‘PARCEL 3’ MALBEC 2015 De Angeles (14.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£25 Field & Fawcett; Las Bodegas

From a tiny estate with very old vines – made in limited quantities.  Owners Guillermo Barbier and Juan Manuel Gonzalez mature Malbec for just a short time in oak, but for 24 months in bottle, before releasing onto the market.  This extended bottle age gives it an appealing developed plum bouquet, sweet red berries, superb silky palate, complex and balanced.

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