Malbec Is Like The Gateway Drug Of Red Wines

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Ilustration by Andrew Saeger, tHE ARTdept.
Hey fellow lushes! It doesn't seem possible that just 10 years ago, Malbec was just a bit player in the world of wine. It was the second banana grape winemakers loved to blend into Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Kinda like the Jon Cryer to the much more high-profile Charlie Sheen. (Call me a sloppy drunk, but Two and A Half Men is even better since it lost its Sheen.)

Cheap Malbec from Argentina changed all that. Despite not being able to remember where I put my car keys, I vividly recall when that velvety red started drenching the U.S. market in 2005. Or, maybe it became more visible to me because I started searching it out following a spectacular trip to Buenos Aires, a wine-soaked romp that included the search for that city's best steak, Evita's tomb and random acts of tango.

In that country, most grapes are grown in the Mendoza region, which sounds like it should be overrun with characters from The Sopranos. They've been growing grapes there since the 1800s and there are now tons and tons and tons of grapes there. I'm no economics whiz, but that abundant supply has increased my demand.

Even though it's become much more popular in the past few years, it's still possible to get a very nice bottle of Argentinean Malbec for under $10. Though, you've got to watch those in the $5 range. I picked up a bottle of Falling Star Malbec/Merlot at Trader Joe's and it tasted a little like raw meat. And not raw meat like fabulous RN-74 steak tartare either.

I really like the 25 Lagunas Malbec. It's made with estate grown fruit, which is usually a good sign the wine is not going to suck. It was soft and satisfying on its own, tasting of plums and black cherries and spice. But it was even better when I served it with a slab of steak.

Four out of four brown paper bags on this one and a bonus ding-ding-ding for discovering a new importer to keep my bleary eye on: Cannon Wines out of San Francisco. Love how they're marketing "Pure Argentina Wines", a designation that makes it easier on the consumers who face a daunting number of wines from which to choose. Oh, and, The Wino loves that this bottle comes with a screwtop. Hot damn, let's open another.

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