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Winner Details

Varietal Classics: Argentinian Malbec

2014: Gold: 2; Silver: 5; Bronze: 4; Commended: 4
2013: Gold: 3; Silver: 2; Bronze: 4
Must-list index: 95%
Overall performance SWA 2014: B

At last we found some value in the Varietal Classics section! The Argentinian Malbecs delivered a slew of medals at the kind of prices we thought we’d left behind years ago. And with a good number of high quality Silvers as well as a couple of Golds, this is clearly a category with real strength in depth.

‘Making margin and selling that at £24 a bottle? That’s impressive!’ drooled Fifteen Cornwall’s Gordon Lawrence, as he surveyed one great-for-the-money medal winner.

Neatly summed up by Virgile Degrez of Lutyens as a wine with ‘fruitiness, that plum character, cassis, a bit of minerality’, this is a style that is almost impossible to dislike – at least when it gets it right. And it didn’t always.

In the past, Argentine Malbecs that have failed to medal were usually wines with good fruit that had been over-beaten with the oaky stick. This time, however, while the oak use was largely better (at least at this sub-£12 level), there were (highly unusual) problems with fruit quality.

Over-ripeness, coarse tannins and (even more unusual) brett were just a few of the issues that dispirited our tasters, and perhaps explains why we didn’t get as many medals overall here as we might have expected from the number of entries.

That said, the wines that did get it right were described by one taster as ‘delicious’ – and there are real signs of embryonic moves to a subtler style that retains some of the vibrancy that makes Argie Malbec what it is, but without pursuing what consultant Martin Lam described as ‘foot to the floor high extract’.

From the Tasting Teams

‘It’s an essential, whether steakhouse, burger bar or restaurant, Malbec hits the spot – you’ve just got to get the character right; it’s a very competitive market.’ Tom Forrest, team leader

‘We got a lot of wine for the money here.’ Charles van Wyk, FJB Hotels

‘These were best at £5-7, where they were simple in a good way. There was more typicity, and people weren’t trying too hard.’ Martin Lam, consultant

FOOTNOTE: The price limit for the Varietal Classics categories is £12.