As 2016 approaches, we look back at the best wines reviewed by our national operator/retailer panel in 2015. The panel this past year tasted and rated sauvignon blanc, malbec, merlot, rosé, and American cabernet sauvignons.
The following wines were all received five stars, meaning they earned at least 92 out of 100 points from one of our panelists.
If you’re a beverage professional with a specialty in wine and you’re interested in participating in the panel, please contact associate editor Kyle Swartz at email@example.com or 203-855-8499 x2225.
(98) Altamira Navigato Grand Reserve Malbec 2008 (Argentina). This is one serious malbec. High-altitude fruit from the Uco valley. Old-vine designation utilizing plantings from 1947. An exotic blend of malbec, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc aged 24 months in French oak. Intense purple color, soft aromas of apricot, plum, and bright cherries. Elegant, supple mouthfeel, and a long, smooth finish. ($52)
(97) Saracina Malbec 2011 (California). John Fetzer has been producing great organic wines since the ’80s, now his Saracina winery continues the passion. Vineyard-designated grapes shine in this California interpretation. Rich and full bodied, with soft hints of raisins, plums, coffee and dark chocolate. Soft, supple tannins lead to a long, lingering finish. ($45)
(96) Susana Balbo Malbec 2012 (Argentina). Argentina’s flying winemaker shows her talents with this one. Malbec and 8% cabernet make this a uniquely styled wine. Aromas of violets, black cherries, and plums dominate. Rich and supple, with a strong tannic backbone, this wine finishes with vanilla, tobacco, and dark chocolate flavors. ($37)
(95) Lionel Osmin Cahors 2011. Classic Old-World malbec (100%) from a great producer, the wine is aged 10 months, 25% in oak barrels. The color is deep blue—almost purple. Aromas of black fruits, mocha, and “cigar-box” spiciness lead to bold flavors of blackberry and plum balanced with firm tannins and a hint of lovely terroir. Nice now, it will cellar for several years. ($20)
(95) Chateau Nozieres Ambroise de l’Her Cahors 2010. Ninety percent malbec and 10% merlot aged 14 months in oak barrels. Blue/black in color and viscous in the glass. A bouquet of lilacs and berries leads to lovely flavors of blueberry and spice with a touch of sweet and toasty oak. Tannins are supple with a touch of earthiness on the finish. Very French, very good! ($20)
(95) Lionel Osmin La Reserve Malbec 2011 (France). An excellent example of malbec (100%) from Southwest France, home of the grape’s origins. Aged 10 months, 80% stainless, 20% oak. The wine has a beautiful deep-blue color. Aromas and flavors of berry, black cherry, coffee, and some sweet spice finish with soft tannins and a hint of terroir. This is a great introduction to “old-world” malbec and a terrific value! ($13)
(95) Decero Malbec Remolinos Vineyard-Agrelo 2011 (Argentina). The vineyard is located at 3,500 feet in Mendoza’s sub-region of Agrelo where the grapes are hand picked. The wine, aged in French oak barrels for 14 months, is a superb example of modern Argentine winemaking. A floral nose leads to concentrated flavors of sweet/tart red fruits with nuances of cedar, spice, and vanilla. The tannins are firm and linger with some lip-smacking acidity. Pair this with a good steak! ($23)
(95) Luigi Bosca Malbec 2011 (Argentina). Intense with sweet tannins, ripe red fruits, cassis and black pepper tones. A pure and full-bodied malbec. This bold gem pairs nicely with braised short ribs, stews and game. ($17)
(94) Achavel Ferrer Finca Bella Vista 2010. Move over Bordeaux: This is a keeper! Brooding, dark and powerful, with ripe tannins, elegant minerality and dark chocolate. A fine example of a collectible cellar wine. ($100)
(93) Altamira de los Andes, Reserve Malbec 2009 (Argentina). High-altitude malbec sourced from three of the best growing areas in the Uco valley. Aged 18 months in oak, this wine has beautiful violet color in the glass, with intense aromas of cherry and vanilla and just a hint of dark chocolate. A formidable, classic malbec. ($45)
(93) Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2012 (Argentina). Full, bright ruby red. Porty, yet high-pitched aromas of blackberry, kirsch, blueberry and violet are complicated by balsamic and black olive nuances. Dense, thick and super ripe, but still with noteworthy clarity to its dark fruit and fresh fig flavors. A nutty oak element is leavened by insinuating acidity. The wine ultimately displays a very attractive sugar/acid balance and finishes with good lift. ($31)
(93) Vina Cobos Felino Malbec 2012 (Argentina). This Felino malbec carries a deep magenta hue and aromas of dark berries and anise. On the palate, intense, pure flavors of just-picked raspberries, black plum and graphite unfold in velvety layers. Exotic notes of ginger and white pepper carry through the mid-palate to intermingle with firm tannins and notes of cedar on the finish. ($21)
(92) Vina Solaya Malbec 2013 (Argentina). Dark ruby red, this elegant malbec has aromas of red currants, blackberries and plums, with notes of pepper and clove. Flavors of black cherries and juicy plums fill the mouth with hints of cedar and vanilla on the finish. ($15)
(92) Salentein Numina 2012 (Argentina). A Bordeaux blend from Argentina’s Uco Valley that is 62% malbec, this wine is smooth and elegant, with fine tannins, complex black fruit notes and a long finish that would indicate ageability. ($43)
(92) Mascota Vineyards Malbec ROD (Argentina). A deep, savory malbec with a core of dark plum and spice box; the flavors intermingle effortlessly with just the right amount of oak. The wine finishes with a pleasurable, silky texture. ($14)
(92) Colome Malbec 2012 (Argentina). This is definitely the whole milk of malbec, with some of the highest-elevation fruit on the planet. The grapes have a rich concentration of flavors that show dramatically through every sip. Savor this malbec with a grilled steak or simply after dinner by a fire on a cold winter night. ($28)
(92) Layer Cake Malbec 2012 (Argentina). A classic malbec: Big, brooding, black fruit, then rich earth, truffles and dark cocoa are at the front. The vineyard is at its core, always evident with the thread of minerality that the deep alluvial cobblestones lend. This wine is so elegant in the mouth, with fresh-picked blackberries, hints of chocolate and wisps of smoked bacon. ($17)
(92) Altos Las Hormigas malbec Reserve 2011. Concentrated cassis, peppercorn and blueberry with a touch of mocha on the finish. This malbec’s medium-bodied structure can handle a good steak. ($25)