Sometimes you find a wine, so delicious, so affordable, so consistent you can’t help recommending it for nearly every occasion, regardless of a person’s personal preference or snootiness level. Catena Malbec is that wine and more — it could arguably be my favorite “$20 and under” in the world. Largely due to budget constraints, I’ve become thoroughly familiar with wines in the aforementioned price range (such as Ringbolt, a delicious Cab Sauv), and so have been dedicated to finding good ones. And still, I’m blown away time and time again by Catena.

Over the last decade, the world has been astounded by the quality of wine coming out of Argentina’s Mendoza region, particularly Malbecs. I am certainly among the fans, but over the last couple of years I’ve found the quality of some fairly…variable. That is to say the demand on the wine may mean the vintages aren’t as consistent or “wowing” as they once were. In addition, I’ve found some recent Malbecs that have found their way to the LCBO to be cloyingly fruity and sweet, without real balance. Thankfully Catena has not fallen prey to these problems.

The 2012 continues Catena’s tradition of producing excellent Malbecs. It pours a rich, purple-red that looks very much like the dark fruit you get on the nose. Big whiffs of ripe plum, black berry and dark cherry are amalgamated by a very distinct note of pipe tobacco smoke. Impressively, my notes for Catena have remained largely unchanged over the five years I’ve been drinking it, showing incredible consistency.

The taste is no different. Rich, lush, dark plums are the highlight, but unlike some of its inferior Malbec kin, Catena doesn’t let them become to flabby. A nice acidity brightens the palate with a wonderful combination of wood-spice, leather and tobacco to make it a thoroughly interesting drink.

I’ve never been disappointed pouring a glass of Catena Malbec, and I don’t expect to be any time soon. It’s one of my go-to affordable wines, and something I continue to recommend to new drinkers and experienced imbibers alike. It’s certainly something I’ll be sipping slow again.

(The 2012 has received universal acclaim, you can check out the ratings here)