Ricardo Santos 2016 “El Malbec” La Madras Vineyard Mendoza Malbec ($19.99)
Deep, dark purple, with just a thin line of lighter garnet at the edge. Plums and black cherries on the nose with a whiff of oaky spice. Tart and a distinct edge of heat on the palate, a claimed 14 percent alcohol (or perhaps a little more) making itself manifest in a gentle burn that gains more emphasis from distinct tannic astringency. This may sound less than pleasant, but it disappears in context with food and mellows as ripe blackberries and a touch of minerality become more evident along with the oaky spice in the finish. U.S. importer: Global Vineyard Importers, Berkeley, Calif. (July , 2018)
FOOD MATCH: It was excellent with leftover Ethiopian lamb (aromatically spiced but not fiery), and also worked well with meat loaf and gravy and, separately, with creamy cheese.
WHEN TO DRINK: It’s good now with food, but the rough tannins, dark color and primary aromas suggest that a few years under good cellar conditions might see it evolve.
I paid a couple of bucks more than Wine-Searcher.com’s $18 average retail, but the $20 range isn’t unreasonable for a quality single-vineyard Mendoza Malbec, if the high alcohol and oak style of New World reds suits your palate.
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