Monday, August 30, 2010

A Malbec That Shines

Malbec, as every wine lover knows, has become THE calling card for Argentina's red wines. Producers in the Mendoza district, as well as a few other districts in the country, have planted this variety in large numbers and make hundreds of thousands of cases which are being consumed at ever-increasing numbers in the United States and other large wine markets.

Inevitably, whenever a wine such as Malbec becomes a phenomenon, there are dozens of producers that make as inexpensive a bottling as they possibly can. Forget complexity with these wines, just look at them as throwaway bottlings, ones that can be consumed quickly and are pleasant enough, though hardly memorable. There are so many of these Malbecs on sale for $8-$12 in America and while they serve their purpose of helping consumers become aware of the variety, these are not wines that have any lasting qualities except for simple black fruit and a hint of spice. Still, the country's wine promoters rave about how the category of Argentinian wines is growing.

Of course, there are $35-$50 bottles of Malbec that are glorious and show the potential of this variety. Made in small quantities from the finest vineyard sites and treated with the utmost care in the cellar, these wines are grand successes. I realize that these wines are not in demand, yet it is important for a few of Argentina's vintners to make wines such as these, if only to show the world that first-class Malbec is a reality.

So Malbec can be an important wine or it can be - as it is too often these days - a one dimensional wine mass-produced for the market. So how nice to find a Malbec with complexity and a reasonable price; I discovered one last week - the 2008 Novus Ordo from Mendoza.

Novus Ordo is a new winery located in the town of Tupungato in the Uco Valley in the Mendoza province. I tasted the winery's first release last week in Chicago with one of the winery's partners, R. Cary Capparelli, who serves as the company's President and Chief Operating Officer (Capparelli is from Chicago). The wine, I am happy to report, offers excellent ripeness and balance along with beautiful structure. Too many Malbecs lack this structure, meaning they will offer little pleasure after initial release. The 2008 Novus Ordo however, has ideal acidity which keeps everything in check as well as offering a nice freshness to the wine. There is some new French oak evident, but it is appropriate and does not overwhelm the appealing fruit. While the wine is approachable now, I think that this will be at its best in 3-5 years and I wouldn't be surprised to see this drink well for another year or two after that.

I asked Capparelli the price, expecting him to tell me it was $22-$24 dollars, which would have been worth it. To my surprise however, he told me the retail price is $17. For me, this makes the 2008 Novus Ordo Malbec an excellent value. For just two to three dollars more than hundreds of other rather ordinary bottlings of Malbec out there, I'd recommend to just about everyone that they seek out this wine if they want to discover what a complex, layered, ideally structured Malbec is all about.

Capparelli told me that other Novus Ordo wines will be released in the near future, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and even Tempranillo. Based on this initial release, Novus Ordo will be an Argentinian winery to watch.

Note: the wine is currently available in a few markets, including Chicago and Atlanta with Phoenix in the works.


  1. The 2009 Novus Ordo Classic will be available this December followed by the sensational and sweet Novus Ordo Gran Estate Chardonnay in the summer 2011. The 2008 Classic Novus Ordo Malbec is being served at 15 restaurants throughout Chicagoland now including Bijan, Cava, Epic, Leonardo's, Macello Rosewood, and Trullo