The Many Moods of Malbec 

With so much so-so Malbec washing in from Argentina, it's easy to take the variety for granted. Once a mainstay of Bordeaux red blends, it has fallen out of favor there. In France, only Cahors continues to champion the grape, but it was Argentina that rescued Malbec from obscurity, creating a surge in popularity. Eventually, supply outstripped demand, resulting in some less than stellar bottles imported to fill the gap. That said, as this tasting proved, good Malbec is hard to beat.

2013 Château La Grave Cahors, $14

The fruity aromas are a mix of dusty berry and spicy cedar. The palate is round, ripe and well-structured with tangy cherry and red berry fruit wrapped around smooth tannins. With its velvety finish, this wine just gets better and better with time in the glass. For some six generations, La Grave has been crafting exceptional Malbec.

2013 Huston Vineyards Malbec, $29

The nose is beautifully perfumed, offering spicy cherry and berry liqueur, vanilla bean and a kiss of oak. The savory flavors of dense berry fruit combine with intriguing layers of smooth oak, coffee, vanilla and licorice, while touches of pepper and leather come through on the finish. Cinder's Melanie Krause crafts this outstanding Idaho Malbec for the Hustons.

2014 Kaiken Malbec Reserva, $12

From this Argentine domaine, you get a wine with a healthy hit of oak backing the sweet berry aromas along with floral violet, anise, creamy coffee and black pepper. The ripe berry flavors are balanced by racy acidity and backed by dark chocolate and supple oak. Ripe tannins add grip to the finish—an amazing value.

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