Think about Bordeaux and the chances are that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes spring to mind straight away, but Malbec would be fairly low down the list.
But if Malbec remains something of an afterthought in Bordeaux itself, it's fair to say that its success beyond the narrow horizons of the Médoc has been nothing short of sensational.
|The World's Most Wanted Malbecs|
|Rediscovering Cahors' Black Gold|
|The World's Most Wanted Malbecs|
To say it came from humble beginnings would be an understatement. Its home is in the southwest of France in the Cahors region, where Malbec made dark, tannic wines with meaty, herbal aromas and austere palates. In Bordeaux, it has tended to be down the pecking order in the classic Bordeaux blend, behind even Cabernet Franc.
Like many people who crossed the ocean blue in search of a new life, however, Malbec thrived across the Atlantic, particularly in Argentina, where it has become something of a signature wine. Argentina and Malbec are now as mutually synonymous as New Zealand and Sauvignon Blanc, or Napa and Cabernet.
So readily has Malbec taken to its new home that almost 85 percent of the Malbec listed on Wine-Searcher comes from there. That is an extraordinary figure, given that Malbec has had only around four decades to establish itself in the vineyards of Mendoza. By contrast, France is responsible for just 8 percent of listed Malbecs. To offer some more perspective, of the top 25 ranked Malbecs, only one is not Argentinian – the Cloudburst Malbec, from Australia's Margaret River.
The joy of newer wine regions is that they are developing all the time and so things tend to change more rapidly than they do in more traditional regions. That's certainly true of this list as we'll see below.
A note about our critic scores, by the way. Wine-Searcher collates scores from a wide range of critics, from influential single palates like Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson to publications like Wine Spectator, all adjusted for the 100-point scale. To generate a wine's aggregate score, Wine-Searcher uses a Bayesian methodology to calculate a weighted average, since not all critics are equal. This score is calculated for specific vintages of a wine, as well as across all vintages.The World's Best Malbecs on Wine-Searcher:
|Wine Name||Score||Ave Price|
|Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae||95||$254|
|Familia Zuccardi Finca Piedra Infinita||94||$130|
|Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Fortuna Terrae||94||$112|
|Bodega Noemia de Patagonia||94||$116|
|Vina Cobos Cobos Marchiori Estate||94||$217|
|Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard River Stones||93||$146|
|Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira||93||$112|
|Familia Zuccardi Finca Canal Uco||93||$90|
Compared to last year when we ran this there are two major takeaways. First, the landscape has changed drastically. Only four wines from last year survive: the Mundus Bacillus Terrae, Altamira, Cobos Marchiori Estate and the Noemia de Patagonia. All the rest are new arrivals at this level.
The second takeaway is the change in scores. last year's top wine (the Cobos Marchiori) had a score of 93. That's up one this year, but it isn't enough to retain the top spot – or even make the top half of the list. The #1 spot this year goes to last year's #10; in 12 months it has racked up enough high scores to boost its overall aggregate critic score from 92 to 95, a huge improvement and a reflection of the volatility of younger wine regions – it's easier to shift a score across seven vintages than it is when your available vintages stretch back 70 years or more.
Oddly enough, the price hasn't changed that much – last year it clocked in at $248, and the rest of the wines on this year's list haven't seen price hikes of any great size, shoring up its reputation as a great value prospect.
And that's the joy of Malbec, really: despite its inauspicious beginnings, it continues to thrive and to bring joy to millions. Long may it continue.