Etchart has been producing wine since 1850 but I've only been keeping track for a couple of years! Here are the two most recent vintages of their Rio de Plata Malbec, both of which you may find stocked on shelves and on sale in Quebec at the moment. (With discount this Malbec is $9.85 including taxes -- click on the bottle image for details.) Also note that Etchart's reliable Torrontes 2006 from its Cafayate range is also discounted until Sunday.
The Rio de Plata range is a self-professed line of wines called "easy-drinking" and by that you should interpret the wines to mean their immediate opening and enjoyment. These are very fresh cuvées, which belies their made-for-export pedigree. Zippy, balanced and quite suave, the Etchart Malbec masks the often sweetish, indelicate and over-oaked attributes of many industrially produced wines. I'm not sure what the total output of Rio de Plata is, but I don't doubt the designed-for-export nature of this range of Malbecs and Merlots. (Their Merlot varietal is also a wonder and fine example of crafting high-quality, pleasing wines within an international market.)
There's a real deft touch Etchart has developed in recent years, a by-product of the modernization of their centuries-old wine production and one that I would consider a definite plus.
Here are notes I took when I opened these wines on two separate occasions.
Etchart Rio de Plata Malbec 2004 is a simple and effective expression of the Malbec grape. Here, the grape comes from a place far away from where it was originally grown and traditionally known as Auxerrois. It kills me this $10 South American version of Cahors can so nonchalantly please, even if it's not exactly long nor profound on the finish.
Etchart Rio de Plata Malbec 2005 also conveys winemaking craft at its height, again equally pleasing in this succeeding second vintage. It features the perfect blend of ripe freshness and oaky vanilla with typical licorice tones. Ideal dinner wine in a pinch. Who needs arty when this comes in at only $9.85? Not showy. A workmanlike wine with fine balance and acidity.
Bodegas Etchart, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.5%.