Malbec grapes may be an unfamiliar to some, but it is gaining attention from wine drinkers. And for good reason, in addition to its remarkable depth and flavor of complexity, malbec makes up some of the best value bottles under $25 in the world.

In the past, malbec was primarily a blending partner, adding its spicy flavor to Bordeaux blends. But today it is being made into incredible single-varietal wines.

Although malbec is traditionally a French grape, Argentina is the country to credit for bringing this grape to the world’s attention.

Malbec’s transformation from French blending grape to the signature wine of Argentina began in the mid-19th-century when French agronomist Michel Pouget planted the first malbec vines — at the request of future Argentine president Domingo Faustina Sarmiento and Mendoza governor Pascual Pedro Segura. In the hot, high elevation of Mendoza malbec thrived, with none of its past weaknesses of disease and rot susceptibility that plagued it in French regions.

Mendoza sits on a high flat plain next to the Andes Mountains. This location near the mountains acts as a rain shadow, giving the area an average annual rainfall of fewer than 10 inches. Melting snow from the Andes feeds a unique and vast network of irrigation channels. The dry sunny climate allows the grapes a near ideal growing climate and flat land makes for a less costly mechanization of vineyard practices and harvesting for producers.

Malbec’s most significant characteristic is its intense dark color. Its aromas evoke cherries, strawberries or plums and sometimes cooked fruit — depending on when the grapes were harvested. Its taste is soft with nonaggressive tannin structure. When it is aged in oak it develops coffee, vanilla and chocolate aromas.

THE VALUES

  • 2015 Pascual Toso Malbec, Argentina (about $13 retail)
  • 2015 King Mendoza Malbec, Argentina (about $13 retail)
  • 2015 Llama Old Vine Malbec, Argentina (about $15 retail)
  • 2015 Bodega Norton Malbec, Argentina (about $11 retail)
  • 2015 Don Miguel Gascon Malbec, Argentina (about $15 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • 2015 Felino Malbec, Argentina (about $23 retail)
  • 2015 Antigal Uno Malbec, Argentina (about $18 retail)
  • 2015 Corazon del Sol Malbec, Argentina (about $25 retail)
  • 2014 Swinto Old Vine Malbec, Argentina (about $40 retail)