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Big value in an Argentine red

2002 Trumpeter sounds a note for versatility
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Three $10 wines in three weeks? It’s not that I set out to write a trilogy on, or homage to, budget wines. Sometimes, that’s just the way things turn out. But three in a row is a testament to the great wine values you can find for not much money, including the latest to land on my table — a red from Argentina that stands out from the pack.

It was late on a Friday night. After a long week at the office and a two-hour drive to the country, popping a couple of pot pies in the oven was the limit to the evening’s culinary adventure. And, with such simple food at that hour, no need to get fancy with the wine. So, as I waited for the pies to heat up I opened a 2002 Malbec-Syrah blend called Trumpeter.

Names like that, which seem invented for the sake of simplicity and to make wines from faraway places appeal to American wine drinkers, usually make a red flag go up in my mind, suggesting that the marketing might have taken precedence over the winemaking. With Trumpeter, though, it all pays off. The wine is well worth trumpeting, shall we say, as a very good, inexpensive and versatile accompaniment to a range of foods — roast chicken, turkey, duck and hamburgers easily come to mind.

It has a pretty, medium-ruby color. Its appealing aromas suggest black cherry, dark berries and violets. Lots of tastes come through — blueberry, blackberry, notes of coffee, chocolate, spice, pepper, orange peel. The tannins are soft but provide good structure and a slight chalkiness. Aging takes place for nine months in American and French oak barrels. This is a well-made wine for everyday drinking.

The Trumpeter blend is half Malbec and half Syrah. Malbec, which made its way from Bordeaux in the 19th century and has relatively minor status now in France, has become the most important red of Argentina, where it does exceptionally well and has a good deal of international interest and investment. Syrah, of course, is the main red of France’s northern Rhône and also thrives in Australia, where it is called Shiraz. Based on the Trumpeter blend, at least, I will make a point of trying more Syrahs from Argentina.

Trumpeter is part of La Rural, a winery founded by the Rutini family, which came from Italy and began making wine in the Mendoza region, now the center of Argentina’s wine industry, in 1885. You’ll notice the name Tupungato in small print on the label. This refers to a district in Mendoza’s Uco Valley where the grapes are grown within sight of the Andes at the relatively high altitude of 3,300 feet and where cool nights can help create more delicate flavors and good acidity, which wine needs to withstand the assaults of food.

In case you missed the other $10 wines that I discovered in recent weeks, they are a surprisingly complex California Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2001 L de Lyeth from Sonoma County, and the crisp and flavorful 2001 Verdejo from Bodegas Cerrosol in Spain’s Rueda region. Combine them with the Trumpeter (which I have seen as low as $8) and you’ll have a trio of delicious, versatile and highly affordable wines to enjoy with all kinds of foods.