The 2011 90+ Cellars Old Vine Malbec Lot 23 is sourced from a single 101 year old (these are the original Malbec vines brought over from France in 1910) vineyard in the Agrelo sub region of the Lujan de Cuyo in the Mendoza Province of Argentina. 90+ Cellars story is interesting, they seek out wineries who have had a wine or wines that received 90 or more points (in recent years) by one of the leading wine magazines and offer to purchase a portion of their current production of that particular wine. If they are agreeable to the sale, 90+ Cellars sends the producing winery 90+ Cellars labels, sometimes new bottles and sometimes new corks, though from time to time you can find the original wineries cork in the 90+ bottle, so much for secrecy. 90+ Cellars then sells the exact same wine as the original (the only real change is the label) for a significant savings. 90+ Cellars isn’t supposed to reveal who the original producer is, but if you Google the name of who bottled the wine or even look for wineries in Agrelo in Lujan de Cuyo, you will find the winery rather easily. Old Vines for an Argentinian Malbec in the $10 price range is rare (I found it on sale for $9.99, it lists for $12.99), about 15 years ago, there was a vast expansion in the Argentinean wine industry. Vineyards were planted or replanted, wineries were built or re-outfitted, everything was modernized and updated. Most of the inexpensive Malbecs you see on the store shelves come from these vineyards and wineries, so a wine from 101 year old original French vines is going to offer up a different Malbec experience. The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 6 months and then aged an additional 6 months in the bottle before release. The alcohol content is 13.9%.
In Cahors, France, Malbec is known as the “Black Wine,” this one isn’t too far off that. The nose is intense and extracted, dark berries and curry spice, with spearmint chewing gum and Thanksgiving stuffing herbs. It tastes of ripe blackberries, licorice (the real stuff, not Twizzlers), asian spices and softer, sweeter plum. This wine does not have much a mid palate, it hits you upfront with all its got, but there is a transition to cherries mingled with blood oranges and a final slap from the tannins. The tannins add a nice touch of texture and help balance all the rich flavors. The acidity is nicely balanced and the finish, which is subdued compared to the body of the wine, lingers for a respectable length of time.
Kudos to 90+ Cellars for finding a unique and interesting Malbec, 90+’s distribution seems to better than the original producer’s, so this is a Malbec you would otherwise may have never had the opportunity to try. I usually tell anyone looking for an inexpensive Argentinean Malbec to buy which ever Malbec is on sale. They are all pretty good, but they all have something of a family resemblance, they tend to be variations on a theme, a good theme, but you know your drinking 10 buck Argentinean Malbec. Not so with the 90+ Cellars Old Vine Malbec, this one stands on its own.