Rob Garretson In addition to the small crowd (we typically have double digits) and the unanimous consensus, this tasting was atypical in that the most expensive wine in the tasting--2012 'Zuccardi Q' Malbec—came out on top. Only twice in nearly two dozen tastings over two years has the top-scoring wine been the most expensive. And it may be no coincidence that the first such instance was also a $20 Malbec from Argentina that topped challengers ranging in price from $9 to $12.
Special thanks to Cecile Giannangeli, proprietor of Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, for suggesting the Zuccardi Q when we were browsing for a “ringer” to put in Friday’s blind tasting up against 2013 Trivento 'Decopas' Malbec (average price $9 a bottle and provided as a sample by the winery) and 2013 HandCraft Artisan Collection Malbec from California (average price $11 and a winery sample). The Zuccardi Q—not to be confused with the regular Zuccardi Malbec, a competent but lower-priced bottle--averages $19 a bottle nationally and earned 90 points from Wine Spectator.
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“This is dark, with a racy edge to the cassis, crushed plum and raspberry notes, gliding along a full-bodied frame,” wrote in MaryAnn Worobiec in the November 15, 2013 issue of Spectator. “Hints of cream and mocha balance the tannins on the finish. Drink now through 2015.”
Though none of the five members of the Wine for the Rest of Us Tasting Panel picked up crushed plum or hints of cream, the each awarded the Zuccardi Q four stars on our five-star scale, which is as follows:
* Yuk, where’s the spit bucket?
** Drinkable, but I don’t need another taste, thanks. …
*** I like this, please fill my glass.
**** I love it; I’d buy a bottle if it’s less than $20.
***** This one’s a ringer; what’s this $35 bottle doing at this two-bit tasting?
And since the unanimous four-star score for the Zuccardi Q translates to “I love it; I’d buy a bottle if it’s less than $20,” our tasters are in luck. Not only is the national average price below $20, the wine’s on sale at Finewine.com for just $14.98 a bottle. At $15 it’s a great bargain. (It’s regularly priced at $19.99 at Calvert Woodley but on sale for $16.99; and costs $21.99 at Potomac Wine & Spirits.)
But if you’re convenient to the Montgomery County Liquor stores in Kensington or Potomac, it’s available for an insane $10.15 a bottle. (If you use the DLC Search page, don’t be fooled by the inventory list that shows nearly two dozen bottles in the Seneca Meadows store. That store only has the regular Zuccardi Malbec in stock, not the Q.)
Our tasters also generally liked the other two malbecs, scoring both the California wine by HandCraft and the Trivento Decopas nearly three stars, 2.9 and 2.7 on average, respectively. And as is typical, the two white wines in the tasting scored slightly lower, though still respectably above two stars. The 2014 Trivento 'Decopas' Sauvignon Blanc, Mendoza, a winery sample also from Argentina, earned an average of 2.2 stars, and Concha y Toro 2013 Casillero del Diablo Devil's Collection Reserva White, a blend from Chile (winery sample) scored a very respectable 2.6 stars on average.
This south-of-the-border tasting showed that South America is still a great source of good, inexpensive wine. And the one clear standout in the tasting showed that if you look long and hard enough, you can find wine bargains even in Montgomery County.
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