The 2008 Finca el Reposo Malbec from Mendoza is a steal for the pricetag and pairs nicely with lamb for the holidays, Wine Wisdom columnist Donnie Austin says.

If you haven't jumped onto the Malbec train, it's not too late. Malbec has become a hot wine item over the last five years and the sales haven't slowed down. With some combination of dark berries, pepper and smoke -- and a purple hue -- the wine is generally consumer friendly and very affordable.

What is Malbec exactly? Malbec is a grape that hails from western France, where it's mixed judiciously with wines dominated with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux, as well as being bottled on its own in nearby lesser-known regions. At some point, these grapes traveled the globe to be planted in new wine regions (for example, California and South America). While Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have garnered much of the attention in the last century, Malbec has hit full stride in the Mendoza wine region of Argentina.

A personal favorite is Finca el Reposo Malbec 2008 ($9.99) from Mendoza. This wine is the "value" line produced by Campo Negro, a small, family-owned operation located in the Cruz di Piedra zone in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. This particular area is home to some of the finest Malbecs and the Finca el Reposo ("sleeping vineyard") wines are made of fruit that is hand-harvested from the high-elevation vineyards. The higher elevation gives the wine great sun exposure for ripening but also offers cooler nights to slow down the ripening process and allow the grapes to gain more concentration and character. This wine really delivers and then some.

If you're looking for a change of pace in your red wine repertoire or looking for a new Malbec, you won't find disappointment in this racy, spicy, well-structured wine. Beef with chimichurri will give you a traditional, perfect pairing.Try one bottle and then you'll likely want a case for entertaining or personal enjoyment.

Donnie Austin, a certified sommelier, is owner of House Wine -- www.housewine.biz -- in Worthington.