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2002 Altos de Medrano "Las Hormiga" Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

A while ago, I posted some commentary on a few predictions made by Robert M. Parker, Jr. about the future of the global wine trade. One of my comments which generated a lot of conversation here at Vinography was my comment that while I understood Malbec's prominence as a varietal in Argentina, and its long history of use in Bordeaux, I had actually never had a Malbec that I really liked. Sure I'd had some that were powerful and clearly made with care, but most of them were over-oaked, very tannic, and wholly unbalanced.

A number of readers agreed with me, but there were some definite champions of the varietal here and elsewhere.

Having an open mind, and a true desire to see what the fuss is about, I've been drinking a few here and there, but sadly, did not have any worth writing about. Until last night, when I opened this wine I grabbed on my way out of the wine store about a week ago. One of the reasons it caught my eye was a short note posted above the wine on which I was able to read the word 'stainless.'

A-ha, I thought, here's a wine that might actually show me what Malbec really tastes like. And folks, that's exactly what this wine will do.

Named after the "humble ant," one of the few creatures that can survive in the difficult soils of the vineyard, this wine is one of several produced by a winery named Altos de Medrano, an estate jointly owned by Alberto Antonini, Marc De Grazia, Antonio Morescalchi, Attilio Pagli, Alan Scerbanenko and Antonio Terni all of whom are relatively well known Italian winemakers. These gentlemen are making a splash in Argentina, after some of their initial efforts gathered high scores and much acclaim from the international wine press. In addition to the Malbec (of which they also make a Reserve wine) Altos produces Syrah as well, thanks to the capable vineyard management of Carlos Vasquéz, who used to tend the vines at Catena, which is arguably Argentina's most well known producer.

This wine is fermented in stainless steel, and then aged for nine months in mostly stainless, with a little oak, and then bottled without stabilization or filtration, leaving us with a very pure expression of the Malbec fruit flavors.

Tasting Notes:
A deep garnet color in the glass this wine has a very pleasing and aromatic nose with aromas of tobacco, cherry cola, and earthy mushrooms. In the mouth it is dominated by black cherry and cola flavors, with elements of blueberries. The wine has imperceptible tannins, and a nice acidity. The finish is reasonably long and integrates a hint of nutmeg into the aftertaste.

Food Pairing:
This isn't a particularly complicated wine, so don't expect it to do amazing things with your food, but it will be a lively accompaniment to pastas and meat dishes, as long as they don't have too much garlic or spice. Try it with portobello "steak" sandwiches with gorgonzola butter and red pepper vinaigrette. Go easy on the vinaigrette however -- food with too much vinegar can also make the wine seem lackluster.

Overall Score: 8

How Much?: $11

I got mine at my local K&L.

Comments (3)

12.14.04 at 5:57 AM

I have no idea if they are available in the USA but two stunning malbecs I cant recommend highly enough are from Enrique Foster at £13.99 (who only grow Malbec) and Cicchitti at £7.49. Both are available in the UK from http://www.vinosvinos.co.uk and the Foster from http://www.wine-parcels.co.uk. I have posted brief tasting notes on ukwol - http://www.ukwinesonline.co.uk/foster and http://www.ukwinesonline.co.uk/cicchitti

If you find these I would be most interested to read your comments.

Viv wrote:
12.16.04 at 12:01 PM

Hey Alder! As a fan of Malbec and Argentinian food I've felt Las Hormigas is one of the few wines is inexpensive and consistent enough vintage after vintage to merit repurchasing multiple times. It has faired very well at many grilling parties with marinated Rib Eye and New York Strip, a few slow cooked Boeuf Bourguignon, Espresso & Molasses Short Ribs and aged cheeses. However, my favorite pairing is Malbec with empanadas de cordero and I just have to be pulled away from this combo--at a neighborhood favorite, Buenos Aires Grill-- as it has become an addiction of sorts. ;-)

High Altitude's Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon (and their Cabernet Shiraz & Cabernet Tempranillo) are also great buys. *Really* good Malbecs run about $30 and are some of the best value wines in the market right now in my opinion. Actually, most of the Bodegas Escorihuela, Nicolás Catena and the Mendoza region in general that I've tasted at restaurants and purchased for drinking at home have been very good and quite inexpensive. Alas, my all time favorite Malbec--Casas Beaux--is no longer available. Sniff, sniff.

Brian wrote:
02.17.05 at 10:39 PM

Well, once you guys graduate to REAL Malbecs, you'll find a few that are truly astounding. I found a couple at a latin restaurant in SF. ALEPH Malbec 2002, then I bought it at K&L or Wholefoods. Another is Facon Malbec. Forget the vintage maybe 01. Lush ripe fruit. And for a bargain but serious juice was a Monte Lomas Malbec 02.

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