AG Pick Under $15: Chalten Reserva Malbec 2008

Take a break from Argentina’s popular Mendoza wine region and try a wine from Neuquén.  For an introduction, pick up a bottle of the 2008 Chalten Reserva Malbec.

Neuquén Province is located in the western part of Argentina, at the northern end of Patagonia.  To find it on a map, locate the city of Buenos Aires and draw a line due west, almost to Chile.  That province is Mendoza; look just south and you’ll find Neuquén, which also borders Chile.  Neuquén has a cool, dry climate with strong winds and pronounced temperature swings.

This Neuquén winery’s name comes from the region’s highest peak: Mount Chalten.  According to the legend of Patagonia’s indigenous people, the first explorer landed here on the back of a swan.

The Chalten Reserva Malbec — though not necessarily indicative of all Malbecs from Neuquén — is less earthy in smell and taste than most Malbec from Mendoza.  The Chalten Malbec is smooth, silky and fruity, almost reminiscent of Merlot.

On the nose are bright red fruit and berry aromas.  These flavors develop on the palate, with notes of ripe raspberry, boysenberry and plum with a hint of black pepper and licorice at the end.  The wine is medium bodied and feels light and elegant in the mouth.

The wine is high in alcohol at 14.5%, which is noticeable on the first few sips but mellows with time.

Though I prefer more earth in my Malbec when I drink it with steak, you can pair this wine with grilled red meat.  It will also go nicely with duck, pizza, hamburgers and hearty chicken and pasta dishes.

A bottle of the 2008 Chalten Reserva Malbec costs around $10.