Malbec Polarities

These two Malbecs supersede their different-ends-of-the-scale price points. Importantly, they offer an interesting contrast of Malbec possibilities. The Ruca Malen is what we – as beneficiaries of being Argentina’s largest export market - expect. Moreover, the US is high quality-oriented. Not all of Argentina’s export markets are so picky.

The Nieto Senetiner comes at a price point for Argentinian Malbec that most Americans won’t pay as the “entry level” wines overdeliver. Yet, most of the same consumers wouldn’t flinch at paying the same amount for what would be an “entry level” Napa Cabernet. Sure, the grape varieties are different, but the wine experiences are much the same. Time for a value re-orientation? I’d say so.

Nieto Senetiner 2010 Malbec Don Nicanor Villa Blanca Single Vineyard Luyán de Cuyo, Mendoza $45
Located at 950 meters above sea level, this is a rich mouthful of Malbec crunchiness. At first glimpse – and second – and third – it struts its rich oak pedigree of about 20 months of aging in French oak barrels. And, that is tasting it four years after bottling!

So, I tasted it for four days before writing this tasting note. I poured out about two ounces each time and poured back what I didn’t taste (usually about an ounce), VacuVin-ed the bottle and placed it back into my wine fridge. On day four, the wine’s fruit at last started to surge above the – frankly – irritatingly over-powerful oak.

Notes of blueberries, boysenberries and black plums finally muscled through on the bouquet. The palate layered creosote and black plum skins onto the full body replete with struture. At last, nothing felt abrupt. The balanced acidity tighted up and lengthened the blackberry and chocolate-coated finish, while the seemingly inches-deep tannins caressingly framed the wine’s powerhouse build. Though seven years old, this baby just learning to walk because it’s built for the long-term.

Already aged for you, to a degree, you can certainly sock it away if you have the patience and space. Your experience would be even better for it. If you can’t wait, do give it a stern double decanting four or five hours before imbibing.
Drink: 2019-25

Ruca Malen 2014 Malbec Reserva, Mendoza $15
This wine hails from two top tier Mendoza regions: Uco and Agrelo. It’s relatively accessible right after the cork is pulled, yet I was tempted to apply the same approach here as I did with the Don Nicanor. However, three days of sampling before a fourth day of taking a note for this wine was far too impractical given the wine’s price point. (I did carry out the exercise and found the wine to be the most interesting on Day 3.) So here are my thoughts on Day 1: this wine has pent-up and youthful concentration of blackberries and black plums. The solid fruit concentration and (only – for Malbec) medium-plus body delivers a lovely mouthful of wine. There’s a light lift on the finish to offer some refreshment. The flavors are upfront and fresh, with their only point of detraction being their sticky caramel overtones. Still, loads of folks with love this for the flavor profile, considerable palate density and the kind price point.
Drink: 2017-19