We tasted our way through a run of Malbecs last week, quite a mixed bag. The rejects went down the drain for what’s becoming the usual reason: Rampant body-building. Most of the overblown, over-oaked, musclebound versions were easy to spot before their corks were pulled, by heavy bottles with deep punts and minimalist designer labels—ego-driven wines, determined to bluster their way into the winner’s circle.
Three made the cut and livened up our barbecue weekend, with burgers and ribs for lunch, steak for dinner, and a boned-out leg of lamb stuffed with feta cheese and oregano for Sunday supper. Las Moras 2009 was perfect for lunch and Altos “Las Hormigas” 2009 for dinner, both dark and luscious and supple, with buoyant, persistent, plummy fruit, while the Yauquén 2009, a little more serious, tannic, and fuller, matched Sunday's lamb (it could age a while, but its angular edginess is attractive now, and it would be a shame to lose that aspect).
Malbec has clearly come into its own in the last few years, but with no consensus at all about style—and a lot of attempts to make it into faux-Cabernet big boys--it’s something of a minefield, and not easy to navigate. (Price and effusive back labels offer no real help.) The good ones are worth the search, though.