Mendoza, not Malbec

Mention the spectacularly scenic Mendoza wine region on the flank of Argentina’s Andes, and the red Malbec grape will most likely come to your mind.

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There’s good reason for that. Although Malbec originated in France, where it is still used in Cahors and remains one of the five traditional grapes allowed in the Bordeaux blend, this grape gets little respect in the old country any more.

But going back to the late 19th century, when the invasion of the phylloxera louse devastated much of Europe’s vineyards, French wine makers immigrated to Argentina and Chile, bringing their familiar varieties with them.

In Chile, the wine industry grew to look a lot like Bordeaux, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot taking the lead. But Argentina’s wine culture took a different turn. The French immigrants joined a substantial Italian minority who had no special love for the Bordeaux varieties. As time went by, it was Malbec, not the other Bordeaux grapes, that took the lead as the Argentine wine industry flourished.

According to the Wines of Argentina web page, which declares the country “wine growing heaven,” Malbec vines occupy 112,823 acres, nearly 25 percent of Argentina’s cultivated area, making up fully one fourth of the nation’s red-grape harvest.

Cabernet Sauvignon, in contrast, is only one third as common as Malbec. Cabernet is planted on 34,914 acres, just over 7 percent of Argentina’s cultivated area, and comprising only 12 percent of its red grape harvest.

Argentina's Mendoza wine region lies within sight of the beautiful Andes, as seen in this view from Villa Potrerillos in Cuyo, Mendoza.

Argentina’s Mendoza wine region lies within sight of the beautiful Andes, as seen in this view from Villa Potrerillos in Cuyo, Mendoza.

The Mendoza wine region is situated on a broad plateau on the eastern slope of the Andes, just across the mountaintops from Chile. The tallest peaks of the Andes are fount there: At 22,832 feet, Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas.

The mountains provide great scenery and lure tourism, but they also play a role in the quality of Mendoza wines. They act as a barrier to the humid winds of the Pacific coming from Chile to the west, and they are well inland from Argentina’s Atlantic coast to the east. The combination creates a cool, dry continental climate that’s ideal for vines.

Of course Malbec dominates Mendoza’s crop, but there’s still plenty of room for Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, and even some white varieties such as Chardonnay, Torrontes, and more.

I haven’t reported on a lot of Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon. Exports tend to be dominated by market-pleasing, inexpensive bottlings, heavily oaked and short on varietal character. But an affordable Cabernet with a different approach caught my eye this week, and I’m glad it did. This delicious Cabernet in the Art of Earth series created by Florida importer Mack and Schühle is appealing and easy to quaff. But it also displays the character one hopes to find in Cabernet, and it’s done with modest alcohol and without any oak in a wine that’s also certified organic and non-GMO.

“Art of Earth,” the importer says, “is the result of our global search for the finest organic vineyards making wines within classic appellations and their traditional varietals for a pure expression of the region. Our wines are true to their origins and winemaking traditions without the use of pesticides or herbicides.”

It’s a good effort, and now I’ll be watching for their other bottlings. Here’s my tasting report.


Today’s Tasting Report

Art of Earth 2021 Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon ($13.99)

Art of Earth Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon

Made with certified organic grapes and billed as non-GMO and vegan, this delicious Art of Earth Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon is dark purple in the glass, shading to an attractive garnet edge. Ripe scents of currants, cherries, and plums lead into a bright, freshly acidic flavor that follows the nose. Juicy red cherries and mixed fruit carry through with soft tannins that linger in an appealing flavor, free of oak and moderate at 13% alcohol. U.S. importer: Mack & Schüle Inc., Key Biscayne, Florida. (April 4, 2024)

FOOD MATCH: The importer suggests red meat, lamb or pepper-crusted ahi tuna and cheese, sauces or reductions as excellent pairings. We enjoyed it with a test comparison of Beyond and Impossible plant-based burgers and a quality burger from a local diner.

WHEN TO DRINK: Good balance, ample fruit, and a sturdy screw cap should keep it in good condition for a while, although it doesn’t strike me as a candidate for long cellaring. Drink it now or over the next few years.

It’s a very good value in the lower to middle teens.

Importer Mack & Schühle offers a detailed fact sheet at this link.

Check prices and find vendors for Mack & Schühle’s Art of Earth series on

Read more about Mendoza and browse a collection of wines from this region at this Wine-Searcher link.


Find the wines you want

Explore Wine-Searcher is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine that interests you. What’s more, offers so much more. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.


Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!


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