In future, when wine lovers ponder Argentina, they will be thinking of malbec: the winemakers of the emerging new giant of Latin America are doing wonders with this grape. There is a splendid example of this now on local markets. Watson's Wine Cellar outlets are offering the 97 Rafael Estate blend of malbec-tempranillo at $79. Usually it sells at $109, which is good value, so the current price (until the end of this month, fax: 2690 2847) is a terrific bargain. Through a series of fortunate coincidences, the modern Argentine wine industry is thriving, largely based on malbec. Early settlers in this region on the high plateau hard against the Andes included Italians who brought malbec grapes to produce altar wine for their churches. There was a new wave of Spanish migrants about a century ago, and they brought the magnificent Rioja grape, tempranillo. Hugh Ryman Wines, the Bordeaux-based winemakers and consultants, went into joint venture with local vintners to put the two grapes together. It is a triumph. The Rafael Estate is 30 kilometres outside the Argentine wine capital, Mendoza. They source wine from local growers then press the fruit in a major winery. The wine ferments in plastic-lined concrete tanks. With 60 per cent malbec and 40 per cent tempranillo, you get a lovely blend: it is big-bodied and lush with the soft gentleness of the tempranillo cutting some of the hard tannic strength of the malbec. But do not gurgle it down like water: the wine has a potent 14 per cent alcohol content.