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Malbec, you've come a long way, baby.
Norton Reserva Malbec 2014, $17
Yesterday was World Malbec Day, so I deliberately held this story back a day because I’m not a fan of the marketing ply that is World “Insert Name Here” day. But why write anything at all then? Honestly, because Argentina—and Malbec, in particular—are killing it these days in the value and quality department. And perhaps no wine sums that accomplishment up more than the hiding-in-plain-steal that is Norton Reserva Malbec.
The 2014 vintage is currently on the market for $17 and maybe that low price makes people think it’s just an everyday wine. It very much is not. I’m not sure I can think of a wine from the past five years that delivers such purity of fruit—in that the wine tastes like blueberries and not blueberry jam—for such low value. But it’s also amazingly easygoing: it has a freshness that used to be tough to find in Malbec, while still being supple enough that Aunt Mabel, who never drinks red wine, will be won over on the first sip.
And don’t take my word for it: the current vintage is 2014 and it garnered 90 points from the Wine Spectator (who generally love bigger wines), Decanter (which generally hates bigger wines) and Robert Parker (who’s never met a wine that’s too big). These three pillars very rarely agree—and they never agree on wine under $20. Further, two of the last four vintages have made the Wine Spectator‘s Top 100 Wines of the Year.
And while I’m singing the Norton’s praise, there are a couple of other labels I think you should keep any eye out for:
Finca Decero is one of those wines that, when I see it one a wine list, I instantly know that the Somm and I have similar tastes. It’s not as well known as the equally great Catena Malbec (and let’s be real, nothing is as well-known as Catena Malbec, which is also on sale for a steal of deal at $22 this month) or the other Somm darling, the dreamy Archal Ferrer. But for me, the Decero has cornered the market on floral elegance and deftness in well-priced Malbec. For anyone who decries Malbec as too sweet and cloying, this is the $25 rebuttal.
To be honest, I haven’t had much experience tasting these wines. This is a single vineyard wine, grown at relatively high elevation—and that altitude shows through a jolt of acidity. I’m loathe to describe it as minerality, in part because I feel like they’re trolling for that by putting the word “Limestone” on the label. So let’s just say there’s a beautiful, clean freshness here that’s compelling.