- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Finca Sophenia, Malbec, Tupungato Mendoza, 2002, $14

This malbec is a beautifully crafted red wine that hails from Tupungato in the province of Mendoza in Argentina. It is internationally styled, meaning that it displays ripe, forward fruit flavors and more than a kiss of oak, but it nonetheless tastes distinctively true to the varietal — a plumy bouquet enhanced by the scent of violets, and blackberry flavors augmented by notes reminiscent of black licorice and spice.

Malbec is a grape that hails from southwestern France. Vines were first exported from Bordeaux in the 1850s, and although malbec plays only a small supporting role there today, it stars on its own in Argentina.

This example comes from a vineyard in the foothills of the Andes, about 4,000 feet above sea level. The diurnal difference between warm days and cool nights means that the grapes ripen slowly and hang long on the vine. The result is a rich, concentrated and extremely well-balanced wine.

The celebrated Bordeaux winemaker Michel Rolland assisted with this wine, and his sure hand is evident in its sumptuous texture. Full-bodied, with sufficient tannin for structure, it never seems harsh or astringent.

An excellent value (wines of this quality generally cost at least twice as much), Finca Sophenia malbec will go especially well with lamb or beef dishes and seems tailor-made to accompany prime rib. (Imported by Centre-Ville Imports)

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