- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bodegas Valentin Bianchi “Elsa,” Malbec, San Raphael, 2002, $8

This soft, spicy, but well-structured Argentine red is a fine choice for opening at a holiday party. It has seductive fruit flavors that will appeal to neophytes and connoisseurs alike and is priced so attractively that you’ll have no compunctions serving it to a crowd.

Malbec is Argentina’s signature red grape variety. Vintners there use it to fashion easy-sipping wines like this one, as well as pricey, ultra-premium wines that can compete with the world’s finest.

The grape thrives in the country’s high altitude vineyards, where it receives sufficient sunshine to ripen fully but retains plenty of grip. The resulting wines display rich red and black fruit flavors, with hints of black licorice and spice. They’re deep but rarely hot or heavy.

When choosing a red wine to serve at a party, you’ll want to choose one without astringent tannins that can leave your guests with puckered mouths. At the same time, you’ll want to pick one that doesn’t seem insubstantial. That’s a tall order, but this one fills it well. (Imported by Quintessential LLC.)

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