I have a theory about Malbec. More of a hope, really. The success of Malbec, the red grape of the moment among U.S. wine drinkers, will remind California winemakers of the appeal of Merlot. By which I mean Merlot before the crazy yields and massive oaking of the late 1990s. The Merlot that features dense, dark red fruit. The grape that makes up most of Cheval Blanc (sorry Miles, it's true).
Alright, California's not making anything resembling a Premier Grand Cru St. Emilion Bordeaux in the near future. But it can absolutely make a wine as tasty and approachable as Fresh & Easy's recent addition, the 2008 Matuco Malbec. This is a wine from Argentina's Mendoza region and it's one on par with competitors like Norton and Alamos.
VERY IMPORTANT CAVEAT: This is a wine that benefits from some airing out. Directly from the bottle, it's a pretty sharp, tannic affair. After an hour or so, the nose features dark red fruit, wet soil and some sweet oak. In the mouth there's a rich mix of dark chocolate, blueberry, and black raspberry. The tannins are still there, but there much softened and framed by oaky sweetness.
Quality Malbecs are still pretty cheap and at ~$10 Fresh & Easy's Matuco has some stiff competition in the category. Ever the optimist, I'm looking forward to their Cali Merlots a few years from now.
Total value: 12.5/15