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Thursday 5 May 2022

The CWB Tesco Argentinean Malbec-Off

Three Malbecs from Tesco

Once a major grape in Bordeaux, Malbec was relegated to an also-ran in the 1950s; it continues to grown along the Atlantic side of the country in the Loire and Cahors, but its spiritual home these days is across the Atlantic in Argentina.

A thick-skinned, heat-loving grape, Malbec produces dark, inky, intense wines wines with plummy flavours. It is perhaps the heir to Aussie Shiraz, a New World grape that makes Big Reds that can take a lot of oak.

Also like Aussie Shiraz, it is capable of deftness as well as heft; in the right hands, it is plummy but not blowsy, fruited and spicy but fresh and food-friendly

The Malbecs of Argentina are an historic clone brought over from France in the 19th century that is now considered extinct in its native country. Argentine Malbec is has a deep colour, intense fruit and a plush, velvety texture.

Malbec is one of the UK's more popular grapes and is a great match for grilled red meats, especially char-grilled bone-in steaks.

Here are three Argentinean Malbecs from Tesco, all with a bit of age.

My personal favourite here is the DV Catena for its European-style fresh fruit, lower alcohol and sophisticated oaking.

Also from Catena, the Tesco Finest is a little more expressive, so think barbecue more than dinner table. With a degree more alcohol, the Vinalba is a more concentrated, bigger, fuller wine that demands rich, gamey foods.

All these wines will benefit from an hour or so in the decanter and have further aging potential.

Tesco Finest The Trilogy Malbec, Mendoza, 2018 (£12)

Produced and bottled by Bodegas y Vinedos Catena, 

From the very beginning The Wines of Catena set out to discover the best places to plant vineyards in Mendoza, identifying the best microclimates for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Malbec.

In addition, new techniques of cluster thinning and harvest practices were implemented to further increase concentration. 

Located by the Andes Mountains in west Argentina, the province of Mendoza is renowned for housing some of the best winegrowing regions of Argentina. The character of Mendoza wines is forged in high altitude desert vineyards irrigated by mineral-rich snowmelt from glaciers and snowfields.

Altitudes range from 1,000 to 5,000 feet, where the foothills rise steeply toward the Andes' peaks. High altitude means cool temperatures, clear air and more sunlight which develops flavour.

Sourced from three exceptional high altitude vineyard sites in the Uco Valley, Lunlunta and Agrelo, which produce Malbec of perfect balance, concentration and elegance, this wine goes through an extensive cold maceration for 3 days to extract aromas.

The juice is then fermented for 10 days with further post-fermentation maceration of 24 days. The wine then sees French and American oak. Barrel selection varies depending on the vineyard - First, second and third use barrels are used

dark fruits and black olives with spice, dried green herbs and cocoa; supple and juicy with cassis, ripe bramble fruits, plush rounded tannins, pencil shavings and an inky texture; spicy, concentrated and long.


Drinks nicely on first opening and improves with some aeration and can be further cellared.

Great with grilled, roasted or barbecued meat.

DV Catena Tinto Historico Malbec, Mendoza, 2019 (£12)

Catena wines are a special assemblage of High Mountain Estate Vineyards made by fourth generation vintner, Laura Catena and chief winemaker, Alejandro Vigil.

Through decades of study and exploration within Mendoza's high altitude mountain terroirs, the Catena family has identified special locations for its Estate vineyards. From the marriage of these historic vineyards merges a wine of unique character that has natural balance, concentration and a distinct varietal identity. 

This wine is made from a blend of two vineyards harvested at different times. The Angelica vineyard which is at 920m elevation with alluvial soils and the El Cepillo Vineyard at 1090m elevation.

A blend of 95% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Bonarda made to honor Don Domingo's legendary abilities as a master blender.

Domingo Vicente Catena married Angélica Zapata in 1934, giving birth to the Catena Zapata tradition. With a singular sense of passion and dedication, he devoted his life to improving the cultivation of the vine in Mendoza.

Domingo Vicente Catena, Laura Catena's grandfather, thought that Malbec could made a wine as great as the best of France. Upon his death, his son Nicolás Catena decided to honour his father by making Malbec world-famous.

This wine is made using various techniques to help enhance the extract of aromas. It is fermented using wild yeasts to increase the complexity of the finished wine. It then spends 12 months in oak barrels.

red and black berry fruits, spice; ripe, juicy plum fruit with  complex spices and cocoa powder; plush, full and supple with savoury freshness; well-made and well-structured with good underpinnings.


Drinks nicely on first opening and improves with some aeration and can be further cellared.

Savoury, fresh and versatile match this with roast chicken or turkey as well as more obvious red meats.

It has 95 points from James Suckling.

Vinalba Gran Reservado Malbec, Mendoza, 2018  (£16)

The grapes are harvested in the first half of April by hand into small trays of 20kg to prevent damage and then meticulously sorted twice in order to select the best grapes for this wine.

Cold maceration takes for 5 days followed by fermentation in temperature controlled tanks at 28° with indigenous yeast and 4 pump overs per day and a period of 25 days of maceration. 

The wines are made by Bordeaux-born pioneer Hervé J. Fabre who was the first to make single varietal Argentine Malbec after recognising the true potential of the grape.

Viñalba offers a range of beautifully crafted wines, combining Argentina's purity of fruit and clear varietal expression with the elegance and complexity which are the hallmarks of Hervé's classical background. Mendoza has become one of the most dynamic wine producing regions in the world with an enviable array of grape varieties, many of which are planted at high altitudes.

The Gran Reservado Malbec is Fabre's flagship wine, hand-crafted by winemaker Hervé J Fabre to showcase the quality that Argentine Malbec can produce.

dark and inky with cassis, black cherries, black olives and complex spices; plush blackberry, blueberry and black cherry fruit with liquorice, cool mint and florality; full and supple with concentrated intensity.


Match with lamb or darker game, such as duck or venison.

Benefits from some aeration and will repay some cellaring.

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