Cheap Wine That Doesn't Suck: South America's Mighty Malbec

Every wine-producing region has its iconic wine. The Napa Valley has Cabernet Sauvignon; France, Bordeaux; Italy, Chianti; Spain, Rioja; Australia, Shiraz; Chile, Carménère. And Argentina has malbec.  

Like its South American cousin, malbec is one of the "noble grapes" of Bordeaux (along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot). Also like Carménère, it was brought to the New World from France in the mid-1800s; its affinity for warm weather and need for lengthy ripening on the vine made it as compatible with the balmy Argentine climate as it was difficult in the often cold and rainy conditions of Bordeaux. 

Malbec is also seriously compatible with Argentina's other iconic product: beef. It's big, bold fruit and undercurrents of leather and tobacco make it as fine a partner to a thick, juicy steak as an appetite and sharp knife. For around $10, the 2007 Andeluna Malbec is a damned good deal, wrapping those dusky, earthy flavors in a package of tangy plum and cherry-berry fruit that reveals just the faintest hint of licorice and allspice. 

Throw a skirt steak on the grill, whiz up a batch of spicy chimichurri, and pour a glass of this bad boy. Beef and Malbec: It's what's for dinner.

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Bill Citara