As a lover of hearty reds, I have a soft spot for malbec, that undersung bordeaux grape variety that’s been an amazing success in Argentina. The country’s full-flavored wines based around that grape have been a hit with consumers. But, as with all wine categories, there is a wide range of values, qualities and styles. The 2008 Colomé, that producer’s estate bottling, is at the top of heap. Inky dark and aromatic, spicy rich, powerful, earthy yet complex and layered, it’s a swashbuckling, arresting red. At $25, it’s also a steal.
I’m usually gun-shy about wines with high alcohol levels, finding them too hot and heavy, but this one, despite being 14.9 percent, is in perfect balance. It’s the latest South American red from Donald Hess, who produces wine on four continents and is well known in the Napa Valley for his eponymous vineyard and his outstanding mountain cabs.
In 2001, Hess purchased Bodegas Colomé in the Calchaquí Valley, which was founded in 1831. The estate has some of the oldest plantings in Argentina — even vines that predate the phylloxera epidemic that decimated most of the world’s vineyards. Located in the picture-postcard high-altitude desert Salta region, Colomé’s 250-plus acres reach up to 8,500 feet above sea level and are biodynamically farmed. The old vines and low-yield fruit give depth and length to the wine, which is 85 percent malbec and 8 percent tannat, along with small fractions of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and petite verdot. Fifteen months in French barrels add a touch of sophistication to this smack-of-the-earth red.
A wine as muscular as this isn’t my idea of an everyday red, and it certainly doesn’t lend itself to lighter dishes. But if you’re looking for a big-flavored wine, one with palate-cleansing tannins that will stand up to grilled steak, lamb shanks, redolent cheeses or the Sunday roast, 2008 Colomé Malbec is a solid choice.
Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”