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The Argentines simply do it too well for very little money.
2016 Terrazas de los Andes $20
Let me start by saying I don’t have the balls to be a winemaker. I don’t have the appetite for risk, the patience to grow grapes or the 8 zillion dollars it takes to buy decent land in the Okanagan. But if I did, I like to think I’d temper my passion with a dose of business pragmatism. Take Stag’s Hollowthey grow a wonderful Dolcetto that is less expensive than any other Dolcetto widely available in the province, so it’s both exciting and compelling as a consumer. The wonderful Terravista makes an ethereal Albarino that’s less expensive than its Spanish brethren. And Moon Curser, well they’re the Mack Daddy of planting varietals like Arneis that are not only exciting, they come in at a a competitive price point vis a vis they’re international competitors.
Which is like Malbecexcept exactly the opposite. I’ve never had an Okanagan Malbec that couldn’t be bested by an Argentinian counterpart, usually with a fairly substantial cost savings. Take Painted Rock’s acclaimed version of the the grape. It’s wonderful, quite restrained take, with plenty of juicy, fresh blue fruit. It’s $45. Then take this week’s bottle: the LVMH-owned behemoth that is Terrazas de los Andes. I have no idea how many bottles of wine they crank out a year but I think it’s fair to say it’s several dozen factors more than Painted Rock. It likewise is an exercise in restraint. Less blueberry, but with some classy hints of graphite, jolts of blue plum and nice, lifting acidity. It’s a delicious wine and at around $20 it’s less than half the Painted Rock.
They’re both compelling wines and I can see different drinkers favouring one or the other for different but valid reasons. But when price comes in, it’s a no brainer and that’s almost always the case with Okanagan Malbec. There are numerous other grapes where that’s not the case: in addition to the above oddballs, I’d put Okanagan Riesling, Syrah, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and many Bordeaux blends (some of which, to be fair, use Malbec as a component with great success) up against the world on a quality/cost basis with supreme confidence. But not Malbec. The Argentines simply do it too well for very little money for the Okanagan to compete on price or quality.
I like to think I’m a flag waiver for the Okanagan in the way only a converted skeptic can be. I started out as an Albertan railing against what seemed like excessive prices, and now I can’t wait to spread the gospel of how good (and often what a good deal) our wine is. But even I have limits. So if you’re hankering for some Malbec, I suggest you buy the Terrazas…and then spend the extra $25 on a bottle of Painted Rock’s swell Rosé.
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