Here in the Cheapskate household, we are in the midst of a Malbec festival. Not that it’s an annual celebration or anything, it’s just that the last round of restocking the rack included four different Malbecs. The Store, where we normally do our restocking, is featuring Argentinian wines, at the moment, and discounting quite a few, so that influenced what we put in the cart. As a result we’ve had back to back to back Malbecs over the past week or so, including the one in my glass right there beside me on the porch as I type.
The one I’m currently sipping is the Frontera, by Concha Y Toro. Concha Y Toro is a giant Chilean winery owning/partnering concern, but their Malbec carries the Cuyo-Argentina appellation. Lujan de Cuyo is part of the Mendoza province, the source of most of Argentina’s Malbecs.
Concha Y Toro sells wines under many labels, and all over the price spectrum. This one, Frontera, is right at the bottom! It’s on sale, as we speak, at $7.99 for a 1.5 liter fatty bottle. When the wallet is feeling a bit sparse (usually), Frontera is among the list of ultra-cheap but drinkable selections we turn to.
The Malbec is soft and light on the tongue, with pleasant fruit tastes- dark cherry-no noticeable oak. It isn’t very big bodied, even bordering on thin. Easy to drink, though, and easy to like. Pretty darn good for 8 bucks!
Trivento is another Argentinian property of the Chilean Concha Y Toro. Their name, Trivento, means Three Winds, referring to the South Polar winds, The Andean winds, and the warm summer winds that combine to help define the Mendoza province as unique and special among the world’s wine producing regions, especially with regards to Malbec.
This selection was 3 bucks off it’s normal $ 10.99 (750ml), so it is only temporarily a Cheapskate selection.
This is most definitely more complex than the Frontera. It has an oak note, in both “nose” and taste. It is more full bodied, a bit darker, a bit more tannic, with more defined cherry taste, and a slight spice. Very nice, indeed, but twice the price.
Under the Alamos name on the label, it says “The Wines of Catena”, a reference to the Catena family, owners of Bodega Catena Zapata. The Catenas are sort of the Mondavis of Mendoza, in that, like Robert Mondavi’s vision of elevating the Napa valley from a producer of cheap, bulk wines into a respected producer of European rivaling wines, Nicolas Catena sought the same for Mendoza, and his family’s enterprise. Both were sons of turn of the century Italian immigrants; both followed their father into the wine business. Today, however, Alamos is a Gallo property, the largest purveyors of wine and spirits in the cosmos.
This was, like the Trivento, $7.99 for a 750ml bottle, reduced by 2 bucks. Also like the Trivento, it is more full bodied, and distinctly fruitier than the Frontera. It, also, has some oak in it’s personality. I found it “darker” and richer in terms of the fruit, and absent the spice note of the Trivento. This is very enjoyable. Full, lush, mouth feel and nice “finish”-that winey term for “that was good….more, please.”
Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec
This is a relatively new item on the shelves of The Store, just appearing in the Argentine section a month or so ago. It’s on sale right now for $6.99, a $2.00 markdown from the regular price. So it’s aimed at us Cheapskates.
Bodega Elena, like Alamos is a Gallo product. I could find very little about the history of the brand, just the very brief summary on their website. I think, like Alamos, it is a spinoff from the Catena company. Could be wrong, but I think not. The website refers to the Italian immigrant founders (namelessly), and a “matriarch” named Elena, which happens to be the name of Nicolas Catena’s wife. In any event, it’s inexpensive, and on sale, so in the shopping cart it went.
This, much like the Frontera, is light bodied, perhaps even thin. Nice fruit flavors, easy to drink, and enjoyable. Liked it, but it is 750 ml’s for, right now, a buck less than 1500ml’s of the Frontera. That’s an easy choice.
The Alamos was my favorite, and will, when feeling slightly more extravagant than usual, buy it again. The texture, the tastes, and the fragrance were all indulgently nice.
The Trivento was very close. For those who seek a more noticeable oak influence, it may, in fact be the winner.
The Frontera is, hands down, the value winner. Not the best Malbec of the quartet, but enjoyably good, and priced at, effectively, buy one get one free, comparatively.
Bodega Elena tasted just fine, the equal of the Frontera, but, although a budget priced bottle, it’s nowhere near the Frontera deal.