The best Malbecs from the Global Masters 2020

While the South American powerhouse was rewarded in our competition, the Global Malbec Masters showed that other countries can hold their own when it comes to making exciting wines from this grape, writes Patrick Schmitt MW.

If you were in doubt as to the power of brand Malbec, then look at the range of medallists in this year’s competition. Not surprisingly Argentina dominates – this is, after all, the country that made Malbec famous. It elevated a sidelined French grape into an international superstar, but witness where it’s now grown, and the styles of wine it produces. We even tasted a ‘white Malbec’, then, as the sampling continued, tried reds from Turkey, Spain, and South Africa, all made with Malbec, despite those countries having no history of handling the grape.

This is because this variety is such a draw for wine drinkers, who love its deep colour, its fleshy dark fruit, spice, and firm tannins. It’s also one of those grapes that makes one hungry, so closely associated is Malbec with marbled red meat. Or maybe it’s the prevalence of steak that makes consumers so thirsty for Malbec? Either way, the grape is a global force, and, as a result, its supply base is expanding.

This should be good for Malbec, as new sources and techniques, as well as better examples, will retain consumer interest in this grape.

This is true too for Malbec from Argentina, where the diversity of wines from this single grape has expanded, from the rich to bright, and now from the white to the rosé and of course, near-black wines it’s famous for. Argentine Malbec has also moved with the times stylistically, as winemakers gradually show more restraint in their approaches, reducing the proportion of new oak, or picking a touch earlier for greater freshness, even though they are still crafting generous, juicy reds.

So what wowed the judges in 2020? Well, the sole white Malbec in the competition made for a novel, refreshing, inexpensive and well-made addition to the category. It was a fairly simple wine with flavours of apple and pear.

Among the reds, but sticking with the cheaper end of the tasting, it was a Malbec from South Africa that was the only sample to pick up a Gold medal for a wine under £10. Hailing from Linton Park Wine Estate in Wellington, it was loaded with black cherry and prune-like fruit, and creamy vanilla-tasting oak, impressing the judges for its quality and depth at this price level.

Further surprises came in the £10-£15 category. One of these was the quality of Malbec from Bodegas Norton that had been produced without any oak influence. Using grapes from Argentina’s Lujan de Cuyo, it was an intense red with layers of flavour from blackcurrant to plums, with fine tannins and a pleasing touch of dried herbs, and more than enough juicy fruit to make up for the lack of barrel-derived sweetness.

In the same price band, but within the oaked Malbec category, the judges were amazed to find that the sole Gold awarded was from Izmir in Turkey. Made by Yedi Bilgeler Winery, it was an intense style, with blackberry and wild cherry aromas, milk chocolate, and a fresh, plum-like finish, making for an opulent but bright style of Malbec.

Over £15, but staying below £20, and we had our first Master-winning Malbec. Given to Finca El Origen’s Gran Reserva from Uco Valley’s sought-after sub-region of Los Chacayes, it gained high scores from all the judges for its mix of creamy oak and ripe, fleshy, black fruit, and dry, cleansing tannins, all for a higher-than-average but still affordable price.

Moving beyond the £20 barrier, the Malbecs became more intense, and specialist, with a pair of outstanding single vineyard expressions from high up in the Uco Valley. Both from Trapiche, and forming part of its Terroir Series, they were equally good, with a lovely balance between fruit and oak, ripeness and freshness, while containing an appealing herbal, peppery note. However, the flavours and structure did vary, with the Orellana using grapes from the La Consulta sub-region, while the Ambrosia was made with bunches from Gualtallary. Attracting just a point score below these two was a third single vineyard expression from Trapiche, using fruit from a site called El Parel, which yielded a notably spicy style of smooth, fresh Malbec.

As for the other Gold in this price category, that hailed from Norton, and formed part of its Altura range, which, like the Trapiche wines, uses grapes from high up in the Uco Valley.

It was notable how good the blends performed this year, especially when they included Cabernet Franc, which seemed to give a fresh red-fruit character to the wines, not unlike summer pudding. Wonderful and relatively affordable Malbec blends containing this grape included Argento’s Aresano Organic sample and Aleanna’s El Enemigo – which gained a Master. Other successful complements to Malbec based on this year’s results included Tannat and Petit Verdot (Amalaya) and Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah (Domaine Bousquet).

Turning back to the issue of varietal Malbecs, we had some outstanding wines from Catena and Terrazas de los Andes in particular, with the latter picking up a Master for its Lican Parcel, which uses grapes from the Uco’s Los Chacayes, giving another endorsement for this high altitude sub-region.

But we also had a Master at this top end for a delicious Malbec from Doña Paula, capturing the quality of grapes from its Alluvia parcel of vines at 1,350m above sea level in Gualtallary in the Uco Valley.

Made in one of the coolest climates for Malbec in Argentina, this is a wine with masses of concentration, loaded with pure, intense black fruit, some bright red berries, notes of cigar box, and a tight dry tannin texture. It is an impressive, powerful red without the alcohol heat and sweetness that can beset such a wine style.

And it is another example of why Argentina is still the benchmark for varietal Malbec – it manages to pack so much colour, flavour and energy into its wines.

See the tables below for all the medallists from this year’s competition.

White Malbec

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Bodega Trivento Argentina Trivento Reserve White Malbec Uco Valley &
Luján de Cuyo
Argentina 2020 Bronze

Unoaked 100% Malbec

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Bodega Norton Barrel Select Malbec Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2020 Silver
Beefsteak Club Beefsteak Club Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2020 Silver
Fecovita Botham Signature Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Bronze
Rigal Original Malbec South West France 2019 Bronze
Aldi Ireland Grapevine Malbec Uco Valley Argentina NV Bronze
£10-£15
Bodega Norton Colección Malbec Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2020 Gold
Bodega El Esteco Old Vines Malbec Calchaquí Valleys Argentina 2019 Silver
Bodega Malma Chacra La Papay Malbec Patagonia Argentina 2019 Silver
£30-£50
Bodega Krontiras Krontiras Natural Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2019 Bronze

Oaked 100% Malbec

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Linton Park Wine Estate Linton Park Estate Malbec Wellington South Africa 2018 Gold
Finca La Celia Graffigna Malbec San Juan Argentina 2019 Silver
Indómita Irresistible Bío Bío Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Bodega El Esteco Don David Malbec Calchaquí Valleys Argentina 2019 Silver
Bodega El Esteco Blend de Extremos Malbec Calchaquí Valleys Argentina 2019 Silver
Tapihue Wines Clava Reserva Valparaíso Chile 2018 Silver
Viña Santa Ema Gran Reserva Malbec Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Zorzal Vineyards & Winery Zorzal Terroir Único Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Silver
Indómita Zarper Bío Bío Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Bodega Estancia Mendoza Malbec Reserve Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Bronze
£10-£15
Yedi Bilgeler Winery Solon Atica Malbec İzmir Turkey 2019 Gold
Tapihue Wines Q Gran Reserva Valparaíso Chile 2018 Silver
Finca La Celia Graffigna Glorious Selection San Juan Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodega Trivento Argentina Private Reserve Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Silver
Trapiche Perfiles Textura Fina Malbec Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2019 Silver
Bodega Norton Winemakers Reserve Malbec Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2019 Silver
Bodega Argento Artesano de Argento Organic Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Silver
Finca Ferrer Finca Ferrer Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver
Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Malbec Colchagua Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Finca El Origen Reserva Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Silver
Terrazas de los Andes Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Luján de Cuyo
and Uco Valley
Argentina 2018 Silver
Zorzal Vineyards & Winery Zorzal Gran Terrior Uco Valley Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodega Estancia Mendoza Uco Valley Estate Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Silver
Doña Paula Winery Doña Paula Estate Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Silver
Trapiche Perfiles Calcareo Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Bronze
Trapiche Medalla Malbec Luján de Cuyo
and Maipu
Argentina 2017 Bronze
Mascota Vineyards Unánime Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Bronze
Fecovita Botham 79 Series Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Bronze
Bodegas y Viñedos Pascual Toso Estate Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Finca El Origen Gran Reserva Malbec Los Chacayes Argentina 2018 Master
Viña Aresti Trisquel Series – Curicó Costero Curicó Valley Chile 2018 Gold
Bodega Estancia Mendoza Single Vineyard Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Gold
Finca Ferrer Colección 1310 Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Gold
Finca La Celia La Celia Elite Uco Valley Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodega Malma Family Reserve Malbec Patagonia Argentina 2018 Silver
Trapiche Gran Medalla Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver
Finca La Anita Finca La Anita Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodegas y Viñedos Pascual Toso Selected Vines Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2018 Silver
Château Lagrézette Cuvée Marguerite Occitanie France 2016 Silver
Algodon Wine Estates Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2017 Silver
Mendoza Vineyards R&B Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Bronze
Mendoza Vineyards MV Gran Reserve Mendoza Argentina 2018 Bronze
Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Malbec Maule Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
£20-£30
Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Orellana Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Gold
Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Ambrosia Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Gold
Bodega Norton Altura Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2019 Gold
Grupo Colomé Colomé Lote Especial Malbec El Arenal Salta Argentina 2018 Silver
Millaman Paya de Millaman Curicó Valley Chile 2017 Silver
Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Coletto Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver
Bodega Norton Privada Malbec Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodega Argento Single Vineyard Altamira Organic Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodegas y Viñedos Pascual Toso Alta Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2018 Silver
Bodegas Clunia Clunia Malbec Castilla y Léon Spain 2018 Silver
Bodega Los Helechos Los Helechos Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver
Bodega Argento Single Block Black Mendoza Argentina 2017 Silver
Viu Manent Single Vineyard San Carlos Colchagua Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Taylor Made Malbec Clare Valley Australia 2019 Bronze
£30-£50
Bodega y Viñedos Catena Catena Alta Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2016 Gold
Fincas Patagónicas–
Bodegas Tapiz
Black Tears Uco Valley Argentina 2015 Silver
Château Lagrézette Le Pigeonnier Occitanie France 2016 Silver
Doña Paula Winery Selección de Bodega Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver
£50+
Terrazas de los Andes Parcel Nº 12 Licán Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Master
Doña Paula Winery Doña Paula Parcel Alluvia Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Master
Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Fortuna Terrae Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2015 Gold
Terrazas de los Andes Grand Malbec Luján de Cuyo
and Uco Valley
Argentina 2017 Gold
Terrazas de los Andes Parcel Nº 2 Los Castaños Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Gold
Finca La Anita Magna Finca Luján de Cuyo Argentina 2017 Bronze

Unoaked Malbec Blend

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Aldi Ireland Vignobles Roussellet French Malbec Syrah Loire Valley France NV Bronze

Oaked Malbec Blend

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Viña Morandé Estate Reserve Malbec Maule Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Cono Sur Organic Malbec Colchagua Valley Chile 2018 Silver
The Show The Show Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Silver
Vistamar Vistamar Reserva Maule Valley Chile 2019 Silver
£10-£15
Bodega Argento Artesano de Argento Organic Malbec Cabernet Franc Mendoza Argentina 2019 Gold
Domaine Bousquet Reserve Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2018 Silver
£15-£20
Aleanna El Enemigo Malbec Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Master
Domaine Bousquet Gaia Mendoza Argentina 2017 Bronze
£20-£30
Bodega Norton Lote Negro Uco Valley Argentina 2018 Gold
Domaine Bousquet Grand Reserve Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2017 Gold
Algodon Wine Estates Gran Cuvee Mendoza Argentina 2012 Gold
Bodega Amalaya Amalaya Malbec Cafayate Argentina 2019 Gold
Algodon Wine Estates Malbec Bonarda Mendoza Argentina 2014 Silver
£30-£50
Trapiche Iscay Malbec – Cabernet Franc Uco Valley Argentina 2017 Silver

About the competition

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, the Global Malbec Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world.

The 2020 competition was judged over two days in November at the Novotel London Bridge Hotel, and judged by Patrick Schmitt MW, David Round MW and Simon Field MW.

The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Malbec Master.

Please visit the Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

Global Malbec Masters 2019: the results in full

All the medallists and extensive analysis from the latest Malbec-only tasting from the Global Masters, featuring the best samples from Argentina and Chile, and a surprising discovery from Spain.

The entries were judged on 7 November in The London Marriott Hotel, County Hall

The Malbec revival may be a recent phenomenon, but this single grape has already been through several phases. In fact, during the course of this century alone, it has swung to stylistic extremes, before settling into a happy medium, meaning that the development of Malbec has many similarities to Chardonnay’s changing character over the same period.

What’s the basis for such a statement? It’s an opinion formed from many years of Global Masters tastings for both grapes – and you can read more about Chardonnay’s style today on pages 68-73. As for Malbec, there was a point in the past decade when it seemed that being bigger was definitely better. This applied to fruit sugars, new oak percentages, alcohol levels and, it should be noted, bottle weights too. The result was something heavy in every sense, as well as deeply red, powerfully flavoured, tannic, sometimes slightly raisined, and definitely sweet to taste, mainly due to the amount of vanillin extracted from the brand new barrels. Like it or not, one couldn’t fail to remember it, and Malbec on a label became a shorthand for juicy, rich red wine. Ally that style to marbled steak, and you had a highly successful partnership that catapulted Malbec on to the global stage, but particularly in major wine-importing markets where red meat is consumed widely – so the UK and US.

As for the source of such a memorable wine style, that was Argentina, specifically Mendoza, and its sub-region Luján de Cuyo. This warm region on the outskirts of the city of Mendoza, home to the country’s oldest plantings of Malbec, was ideally suited to producing concentrated reds.

However, with time, the style and sourcing of Malbec changed. Indeed, a few years ago, our Global Malbec Masters was seeing a new type of Argentine red. This was a lighter style, sometimes with peppery flavours similar to Syrah from the Northern Rhône, or a hint of celery and spicy salad leaves, like rocket, suggestive of fruit that hadn’t reached full ripeness. This was partly a result of cooler Argentine climes, primarily a widespread move into the high-altitude Uco Valley, and partly due to the winemaker, who was intent on finding a fresher, tighter, sharper style of Malbec by picking earlier. A less structured red was also evident, achieved by reducing the influence of barriques and handling the grapes in a gentler manner during fermentations – less pumping and pushing of the must will lower the tannin extraction.

The shift in our tastings notes was marked. While common descriptors had included ripe, fleshy black fruit, creamy coconut, dense tannins, warming alcohols, and glass-staining colours only a few years ago, a scan over the judges’ tasting notes more recently would see words appearing regularly such as red cherry and plum, medium-weight, green pepper, and celery leaf. In a fairly short period of time the Argentine Malbec style had shifted from forceful red to restrained wine, and division among the judges was evident as some welcomed the brighter style, others saw the more herbaceous elements as a weakness.

So what about now? Following a day spent tasting mostly Argentine Malbecs from a range of sources within this country, and across all price bands, it appears that this grape has found a middle-ground. Yes extremes in style are still evident, but for the most part, the Malbec making its way on to the market today has ripe, juicy red fruit, firm tannins, a touch of toasty oak, and a pleasant hint of spice. It is neither too sweet, nor too lean. And it is identifiably Malbec, with its deep colour, and firm structure.

From my own perspective, I’m pleased to see Malbec has found a sweet-spot. Although I could understand the urge to experiment with a light, even slightly green style of wine, there are plenty of reds that deliver such delicacy, particularly with the fast-development of cooler-climate Syrahs from the New World. In my view, Malbec’s strength, particularly when sourced from Argentina, is its ability to create a concentrated, structured red, and one that can happily carry high-toast new oak. It is also this type of wine that made Malbec identifiable, and successful. In the same way that most consumers won’t choose a Chardonnay when they want a delicate white, few would opt for a Malbec when they desire a light red.

As for backing away from extremes in ripeness and oak-influence, that is a healthy evolution for the top end examples, where it would be a shame to lose the fresh fruit flavours from high quality grapes, either by leaving the bunches on the vine so long that the inherent berry characters get baked, or through burying their appeal beneath a wave of barrel-sourced scents and tannins.

With such an extended stylistic analysis concluded, what were the sources of Malbec greatness in our 2019 tasting? While this tasting was primarily a health-check on the state of the grape in Argentina, there were some other countries that surprised the tasters for the quality of their Malbec. With the grape’s popularity assured, more places have been trying their hand with Malbec, while its native home, Cahors in South West France, has seen producers work to create a richer style of red from the grape – one that’s more in line with the character achieved with ease in Argentina. By way of example, last year’s Malbec Master was from Château Lagrezette – a historic Cahors property with Michel Rolland as consultant. But this year, although not a Master, the judges were amazed to find a Malbec from Spain rubbing shoulders with respected Argentine names from Norton to Colomé and Salentein. Gaining a Gold in the £20-£30 price band was Bodegas Clunia in Castilla y León, which had crafted a ripe, dense, toasty, juicy and structured red to rival the finest in South America. It was also the highest scoring sample from outside Argentina.

As for those that weren’t from this Latin nation, there were some good Malbecs from Chile – with medals awarded to Viñedos Puertas, Via Wines, Viña Indomita, Concha y Toro, Viña Cremashi, Viu Manent, Viña San Esteban and Morandé. There was also a delicious example from Wakefield Estate in Australia’s Clare Valley, which picked up a Silver, as did, much to the surprise of the judges, an example from Burgenland in Austria, made by Kraft aus Rust, and loaded with plum and cherry fruit, along with a peppery spice, not unlike the wines from this nation’s flagship red grape, Blaufränkisch.

Within Argentina, it was notable to see the breadth of Malbec styles, with this year, the competition’s first ever white Malbec – a fascinating arrival to the category with an oily texture, and peachy fruit.

Among the Malbec Masters for 2019, it was impressive to see Bodega Aleanna pick up this ultimate accolade for its El Enemigo Malbec sub £20, with the rest of this year’s Masters all awarded to wines over this price point, and mostly over £30.

The tasting proved a particular endorsement for the quality of Malbecs being made by Bodega Norton, but also Colomé, Atamisque and Salentein, along with Trapiche and Doña Paula. Interestingly, the latter two producers, who specialise in isolating special sites and bottling single vineyard Malbecs, gained strong Golds for their expressive wines. However, the Masters went to Malbecs that blended grapes from across a broader area, lending the wines a touch more complexity perhaps?

Having said that, among such stars of the day, was the single vineyard biodynamic Alpamanta Estate, which wowed for its fleshy cherry and blackberry frut, as well as tobacco and chocolate notes.

Another Master was awarded to Fincas Patagonicas, whose Black Tears Malbec is soft, dense and just plain delicious. While for me, the ultimate expression of the day turned out to be the famous Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino. The wine, which hailed from the 2017 vintage, was very much in its youth, with masses of taught tannins, but also intense pure blue, red and black berry fruit, and lingering characters of roasted coffee, pepper and plums. Certainly a great Malbec, but also a fine wine that’s capable of standing alongside the most celebrated reds of the world.

Over the following pages you can see all the medallists from this year’s competition, as well as comments from the judges (who are pictured below), and more information about the Global Sparkling Masters, including how to enter.

The judges (left to right): Patrick Schmitt MW, Patricia Stefanowicz MW, Andrea Bricarello, Jonathan Pedley MW, Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW, David Round MW

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