Argentina, Women, and Great Wine – A Malbec Wine Review


The Andes Mountains loom behind the vineyards

Any story about the wine world’s outstanding women would have to include Susana Balbo, the most influential woman in Argentine wine and the talented winemaker responsible for several premium and ultra-premium labels. We stumbled across her second label, Crios de Susana Balbo, and heard they were great value: the wines are perpetually rated 90+ points, and sell in the mid $teens. We tried (and loved) her Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec 2009 doesn’t disappoint either.

Just a few words about the grape called Malbec… This once-forgotten varietal from France’s Bordeaux region has become Argentina’s signature grape. You could argue that it would be hard to make bad wine in this country’s Mendoza region — with the Andes mountains at their back, they have the perfect combination of dry heat, cool nights, snowmelt for irrigation, and elevation to grow world-class grapes. Over the last decade or two, foreign investment has bought the latest equipment and technology, while Argentine winemakers have found the best micro-climates to grow great Malbec.

American wine drinkers are going for Malbec in a big way. It’s become the thinking man’s Merlot — a new twist on an easy-drinking red with nice berry flavors and a soft finish. Relatively unknown in this country a few years ago, it’s gotten a lot of attention since Wine Spectator named the Catena Malbec 2007 to its list of the Top 100 wines in the world.

So what about Crios? This Malbec fits right there between all the $10 Malbecs that are flavorful but unchallenging, and the $40 Malbecs that can rival Cabernet Sauvignon for depth and complexity (Susana Balbo’s super-premium line includes a Malbec we haven’t tried, but would like to). At around $16, Susana Balbos’ Crios Malbec has some structure, oak and acid, with cherry and cranberry fruit. It’s not just “tooty-fruity” — it’s a red with some depth. The 2008 vintage got 90 points from Robert Parker, Jr’s The Wine Advocate and was a real knock-out. The 2009 has just been released and hasn’t yet been reviewed, so we gave it the old “second-day test.” (That’s where you drink half a bottle of a new wine one night, then finish it off the next day. If it improves, then you know it’s got some aging to do. If it’s faded the second day, then drink up all you’ve got NOW). As expected, Crios Malbec was lusher, fuller, softer, and very irresistible the next day.

Let us know what you think of this line, and please mention any other good Malbecs you’ve tasted. Cheers!

Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec 2009

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