The malbecs of Argentina's high and dry Mendoza region in the Andean Cordillera are being noticed worldwide with good reason. The best of them are supple reds with ample highlights and a persistent subtlety. That certainly is true of the 2008 Alamos Malbec (about $11 at wine shops and wine-savvy markets).
This malbec, tempered with 5 percent cabernet sauvignon and 5 percent bonarda, is more austere than some, nearly brooding in its intensity. Its color in the glass is a dark bruised purple. The nose is dark fruit with a pronounced spice edge. On the tongue those dark fruits, especially raisin, blackberry and both ripe plum and prune, intensify and take on the savor of wood smoke. A hint of leather gives the blend muscle. Well-developed tannins lend it admirable structure and carry through a long dry finish underlined by a note of black tea.
This is a perfect chilly weather wine, whether sipped by the fire or served at the table. Drink it with grilled skirt steak in the pungent Argentine green sauce called chimichurri, accompanied by roasted potatoes. The glow will keep you warm until morning.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelancer specializing in food, wine and travel.