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Wine of the Week: An Under-$10 Malbec from (Yup, You Guessed It) Argentina

When my wife Tracie P and I pulled the synthetic cork out of a bottle of Terrazas de los Andes Altos del Plata Malbec on Saturday evening at a family function, we joked that we could write the tasting note without even sampling the contents: "Bright jammy fruit, with an intense blueberry note, aggressive but balanced alcohol, reluctant acidity but quaffable nonetheless, a crowd-pleaser for under $10."

Let's face it. Wines from Argentina are like McDonald's. And that's a good thing, people! No matter where you go, you know that a Big Mac will taste exactly like the Big Mac you enjoy (when hungover) at your corner franchise.

And like Mickey D's secret sauce, the Argentine wine formula is a winner all over the world.

Because wines from Argentina -- especially on the higher end of the Quality Price Ratio spectrum -- tend to be highly alcoholic and highly concentrated in their aromas and flavors, we generally avoid them. In part because the more alcohol and the more highly concentrated a wine, the narrower the field of potential wine pairings. And when you get into the highest-end expressions of the Argentina "brand," the oakiness of the wines leaves room for only one pairing at our house: Charred steak swimming in clarified butter -- a combination that works well when executed by professionals.

But when it comes to the under-$15 price point, Argentina regularly delivers quaffable, crowd-pleasing quality and sturdy, juicy wines that will pair well with the "all you can eat" buffet.

With the Houston International Festival around the corner, Argentina -- this year's theme -- has been on our minds. And so we headed down to Spec's and asked our regular wine salesperson to hook us up with a few under-$15 bottles to try.

Not every label in the bunch was a winner, but we did enjoy the Terrazas de los Andes Altos del Plata. AND it weighed in at less than $10!

The winery's website doesn't offer much in technical descriptions of how the wine is made.

"Our Terrazas wines," it reports, "are sourced from carefully selected vineyards in Mendoza. Each grape variety is cultivated at its ideal elevation above sea level, to express the pure tipicity of the varietal. These high quality wines are characterized by their intense fruity aroma and flavor, soft tannins and well-rounded structure."

Oh yeah, my tasting note?

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Bright jammy fruit, with an intense blueberry note, aggressive but balanced alcohol, reluctant acidity but quaffable nonetheless, a crowd-pleaser for under $10.

Look for me at the festival: I'll be the dude munching down a Big Mac, sucking down a Malbec from Argentina in a plastic cup, and rocking out to Los Amigos Invisibiles.


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