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Wine Review: Malbec emerges as challenger to cabernet sauvignon

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For eons, the cabernet sauvignon has been considered the ruling king of red wines.

Several years ago, that position had been challenged by merlot, which failed miserably, and the variety fell into almost obscurity. Now, the malbec has suddenly achieved its due recognition and is ready to challenge the king.

Malbec is a variety that for centuries had been used mostly as a blender to beef up or darken weak cabernet sauvignon wines. Today, malbec has been reborn as a variety that can and will challenge the cabernet sauvignon for the position of king of the reds. The interloper, however, is not from France but from Argentina, where the soil and climate have calmed the variety’s fierce nature and made it into a champion as well as a challenger.

Trapiche, one of Argentina's top winemakers, has produced some excellent malbec wines to compete with the king and to do so at affordable prices.

It would not be fair to just say that the Trapiche malbec has achieved stardom without comparing it to the once and perhaps still reigning king of the red wines, the cabernet sauvignon. Trapiche happens to also make a cabernet sauvignon from grapes that have been grown in the same region as their malbec and is a wine that is more than up to the challenge. The Trapiche cabernet sauvignon is of such quality that it can easily hold its own against the pricey French examples as well as those from California, but can it survive the challenge?

Trapiche 2021 Malbec ($7)
More and more, malbec wines are becoming identified with Argentina. The grape variety, which had been a minor player in European vineyards, has found a new home in the Western Hemisphere. Malbec is in the same family as the cabernet sauvignon and merlot, and in the past the variety's only claim to fame was that it introduced its distinctive aroma of truffles and leather along with plums and cherries to a cabernet sauvignon wine, with which it was often blended. The finish of this mirrors that aroma and remains on the palate for an exceptionally long time. The Trapiche 2021 Malbec is a nice all-around mealtime wine or for sipping in front of the fireplace.

Trapiche 2021 Malbec Oak Cask ($10)
This wine has been given a bit of extra aging in French oak barrels to introduce a slight touch of oak and vanilla, expanding the features of this wine. Cherries, cassis, currants, dark red cherries, chocolate and a faint hint of tobacco are the dominant aromas, along with the added complexity and flavor provided by the oak. This is truly a regal wine with the charm and bearing of a modern classic and a fitting challenger.

Trapiche 2021 Broquel Cabernet Sauvignon ($12)
The Trapiche 2021 Broquel is a wine that stands tall. The flavor and aroma are that of cassis, blackberries and oak, with myriad other under-flavors that are just waiting to be explored. This wine opens new vistas for the variety and presents interesting challenges to the traditional foods that have always been associated with cabernet sauvignon. This is another good choice for an affordable wine that can accompany a great many foods, as well as a fitting challenger.

Trapiche 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Oak Cask ($10)
The 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Oak Cask wine has been aged for nine months in French and American oak barrels, resulting in obvious flavors and aromas. They’re accentuated by an ever-present mineral content which adds a flinty, steel-like element to the background and cannot help but perk the imagination. Cherries, plums, cinnamon and the hint of coffee are the dominant aromas, along with the added complexity and flavor provided by the oak. Dollar for dollar, this is an exceptional wine whose affordable price belies its quality, depth and enjoyability.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at


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