Historically wine from Argentina has been either a good blending product or a good for the money wine that will get you through till you can afford better. However, with investment money pouring into the country’s grape growing and winemaking industry Argentine wine has been on a steady upward track in quality and reliability the last few years. The white wine Torrontes is really interesting in the different styles produced, but Malbec, long their claim to fame has grown into a wine worth seeking out.
Generally speaking it does not cost a lot to buy a very good Argentine Malbec, however this week I wanted to explore a label found almost everywhere wine is sold at the low end of wine pricing, the Marcus James Malbec. While the grapes are from the Mendoza region, the actual Marcus James Company appears to be based in the United States and the lack of vintage on the bottle sent a shiver of doubt about what I was getting myself into.
A translucent purplish red color in the glass provides a hint that the weight of this wine is on the lighter side, proven true in the first sip. The nose is blackberry touched with blueberry, a typical foundation of the Malbec grape and while it doesn’t exactly rise up out of the glass to meet you it is full and pleasant. Lacking much of an open or lingering close the Marcus James Malbec has the solid mid palate presence expected from this grape, one reason why it is traditionally used to blend with other grapes more widely grown and available, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and the many Red Blends that have hit the shelves lately. The finish has a clear spice character with some zingy acidity and little tannin, all typical of most Malbec wine from Argentina.
On its own this wine is good enough to fill happy hour or preparation for the evening to come, however the Marcus James Malbec would work very well with a variety of foods. I would avoid fattier cuts of beef, though most other meats and root crop vegetables would make a nice match. This is not a wine that can be a focal point to the evening so adding food provides some flavor to fill in around the mid palate strength and the combination of food and conversation allows the wine to recede into a supporting role where in this reviewers opinion it can shine.
The Marcus James lineup of wine is often found in larger 1.5L bottles on the shelf of most, if not all wine retailers in the area. The bottle sampled for this review was a 750ml purchased at Ada’s Natural Market for $4.99, a good price for this wine, though I wouldn’t pay much more given the many really good Malbec wines available in the $8 to $12 price range. Drinkable if not memorable based on a 100 point scale I would score this wine 80, though that should not deter you from giving it a try. Decent value for the money the Marcus James Malbec would be a good choice for New Years Day, when the budget and senses are dulled from the last few weeks of holiday socializing, but you desire something to relax and watch football with while snacking from the pantry.