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Big Value From Argentina

We review the 2010 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.

Much ado has been made of the Malbecs from this region of the world and so today I have decided to indulge your curiosity to see if you can find a great Argentinean Malbec for under $20.

The answer is most certainly yes. Altos Las Hormigas winery is based in Mendoza, Argentina, and above all is interesting for one major reason.

In 1995, well-known but young Tuscan winemaker Alberto Antonini—the former head wine maker at the much touted Antinori winery in Italy—recognized the potential for Malbec to be THE grape of Argentina. He decided to try his hand at crafting a fine yet affordable version of what was to become one of the more popular grapes on the global wine scene.

His vision attracted the interest and money of three other Italian wine makers, who also happened to be long time friends of his. Together, with the help of Carlos Vasquez—a man who has a lifetime of experience managing vineyards in Mendoza—this all-star team of wine professionals went on to establish a winery that produces over 700,000 cases of the wine we will examine today.

In The Store: A recent label change for the 2010 vintage caused many people to loss track of what had become their favorite everyday Argentinean Malbec. The horrific yellow in the original label was replaced with a white background that is far easier on the eyes. In a last ditch effort to reassure their well-established base clientele they have included “bottle neckers” (little tags hanging from the neck of the bottle) that is an exact replica of the old and hideous yellow label.

In The Glass: The wine is a deep inky purple, likely due to the vigorous pump over techniques employed by the vineyard to extract as much color as possible.

On The Nose: A raw toasted oak aroma arises as a result of the “staving” technique used. Although the wine is not aged in a barrel the wine makers add staves of oak to the large stainless steel tanks to impart the subtle vanilla overtones and to soften the overall wine. The remainder of the nose is comprised of blackberry, black cherry, cedar box and bountiful displays of earth and straw.

On Your Palate: Light bodied, with virtually no tannins the wine is very easy to drink. The palate offers more fruit than the nose and soft cherry, raspberry and even a bit of tart blueberry flavors intertwine with a surprisingly pleasant softer oak approach than the nose would have you expect. The alcohol is a tad disjointed which tells me that this wine would do well to be chilled a bit more than you might think. As the wine lingers a coffee flavor emerges from the distance and balances quite nicely.

On The Plate: Pot Roast. What this wine NEEDS is a big fatty pot roast or beef stew. Some rich braised piece of meat, perhaps even braised short ribs would work. Check back next week for a recipe that pairs well with this Malbec.

Out Of Your Wallet: $10.99 at in Glen Burnie (7175 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd.). This wine is tasty, easy to drink and inexpensive, what more could you want?

This wine gets a sympathetic 86 points from me. I feel as though I did this wine a disservice by not following the bottle’s instructions and serving it too warm.

This is a food wine no doubt about it. Could you chug it by itself? Sure. But I promise with some good hearty fall fare, this wine will rapidly become one that you won’t want to be without.

Terri Peters September 23, 2011 at 11:36 AM
This is actually one of our favorite wines! We buy it often - it's one of our go-to bottles. : )
Altos Las Hormigas September 23, 2011 at 02:43 PM
Kurt, thanks for the very thorough review of the '10 Clasico. We made the label change for fans like you- glad you approve. We've recently released two new Malbecs highlighting the alluring Uco Valley region. Keep a lookout for the new Uco Valley Malbec labeled "Terroir" and let us know what you think. Thanks for your support. We're eager to see your pairing recipe. Eat beef. Drink Malbec.
Altos Las Hormigas September 23, 2011 at 02:45 PM
Terri- Muchas Gracias! We're very happy to hear this! Thanks for the support.

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