Loading...
 

Corkscrew - Don't cry for Argentina: Malbec wines are taking over

Forget the tango - malbec is fast becoming the beloved icon of Argentina. I wrote about this humble red grape back in 2006, when it was creeping into the spotlight, but since then its popularity has spread like the macarena at a redneck wedding. And no wonder - malbec is practically perfect.
This disrespected French grape originally hails from Bordeaux, where it slaves for the hallowed cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes. Winemakers use malbec to soften the often harsh tannins of its stout compatriots to create a balanced, heady blend. Bottled alone, it also fathers ferocious, robust reds in the obscure area of Cahors, under the alias “côt” (pronounced “co”).


In the mid-nineteenth century, Argentina imported this unloved foster grape to the dry Mendoza wine region and gave it a permanent home. In the sunny, hot and winemaker-controlled growing conditions there, malbec achieves a full, rich ripeness vastly different from its French brethren.


But, like a loser on Dancing with the Stars, it almost got killed off in the 1980’s. Back then, Argentina hoarded 75 percent of their wines and domestic sales were declining. In a moronic move, the government mandated wineries to uproot their decades-old malbec vines in favor of other crops. Tragically, this happened on the cusp of South America’s wine boom and much of the best fruit was yanked.


So vineyard managers spit on the sandy, loamy soil, said “Shit,” and began replanting.


Fast forward to the late 1990’s. After enviously watching Chile’s success in the U.S., Argentinean wineries realized the outside world might buy their stuff too. Wineries began focusing on quality instead of bulk and malbec bloomed. The improvements worked. The wines are relatively inexpensive and, like New World merlot, achieve a soft, elegant user-friendliness that people love. But that doesn’t mean malbec is wimpy and dull. It has tannic backbone (consider its roots) and enough acidity to complement food — especially nice with a grilled flank steak accompanied by chimichurri, Argentina’s herb-based, national condiment.


Malbec is grown around the world now, but Argentina pretty much owns the market. Not all are worth your money, however. Some that I tasted had flaws like flagrant alcohol, lack of fruit or green pepper, a sign the grapes were harvested prematurely. But, judging from others I enjoyed, Argentina’s malbecs have reached their potential.


Recommended Wines


Terrazas Reserva 2006 Malbec Mendoza Smells like luscious raspberry jam you’d spread on bread. This impressive medium-bodied wine has a lot going on - layers of blackberry, black licorice, bittersweet chocolate, black coffee, cranberry, velvety oakiness and spicy black pepper. Excellent acidity with a rich, tongue-pleasing mouthfeel. Sw=2. $18. 5 stars.


Crios de Susana Balbo 2007 Malbec Mendoza Fabulously delicious. Medium-bodied and flirtatious. Fragrant blackberry that explodes in your mouth then kisses you with smoky oak, rich vanilla, ripe plum and black cherry. Finish is forever. Sw=2. $15. 4.5 stars.


Pascual Toso 2007 Reserva Malbec Mendoza Sultry scent of candied cherries which follow on the tongue, then bittersweet chocolate and ripe raspberry reach a creamy, polished finish. Sw=1. $20. 4 stars.


Dona Paula 2007 Malbec Mendoza All juicy dark fruit with some gripping acidity: blackberry, black cherry, black licorice, cassis with fragrant vanilla. Tannins are firm yet not overwhelming. Gushing finish of fruit. Sw=1. $14. 3.5 stars.


Falling Star 2008 Malbec Mendoza Outstanding value. Dark, jammy berries softened with sweet oak, bittersweet chocolate, couch leather and earthy tobacco. Although it’s a bit watery, it has balanced alcohol and a yummy finish. Pizza wine. Sw=3. $6. 3.5 stars.


Didn’t make the cut: Benmarco 2007 Malbec (too much alcohol); Obviously 2007 Malbec (watery); Tierra de Luna 2008 Malbec (vegetal - olives); and Norton 2006 Malbec Reserva (very little fruit); and Kaiken 2006 Ultra Malbec (too astringent).


Sweetness (Sw) rating: 1-10. Star rating: 1-5. Reach Taylor at taylor.eason at cln.com, on Twitter @tayloreason, and on Facebook.



More By This Writer

Article

Wednesday September 2, 2009 04:00 am EDT

This refreshing rosé blend made from grenache, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and dolcetto (an Italian grape) smells like sweet, perfumey fruit. On the tongue, itís soft íní elegant, with cranberry, sweet cherry, ripe strawberries and fresh, lively acidity. Quite perfect, really. Perfect for any occasion, even happy ones. Sw= 2. $17 retail. 5 stars.  

Available by the bottle at 4th and Swift in...

| more...

Article

Wednesday September 2, 2009 04:00 am EDT
What to do during life transitions | more...

Article

Wednesday August 26, 2009 04:00 am EDT
My first Wineries that Wow entry is Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery, a family-run business that has finally turned a corner. I haven't been impressed with them in years, until I tried this fantastic pinot noir from their estate vineyards. Elegant with lush, dark cherry earthiness, excellent tart acidity and ripe plum with a flirty, sweet raspberry and strawberry finish. Luscious and worth the... | more...

Article

Wednesday August 19, 2009 04:00 am EDT
A look at what people are drinking | more...

Article

Thursday August 13, 2009 09:40 pm EDT
image-1I walk in the door with sweat still dewing my face, having just transitioned from goosebumpy temps at the office, walking through roasting heat, then into a baking sauna doubling as my dark-blue vehicle. In 95 degrees, the air conditioning has little hope of keeping up and it groans under the stress. I refocus on positive thoughts, the contents of my fridge: ribeye steaks, homemade... | more...
Search for more by Taylor Eason

[Admin link: Corkscrew - Don't cry for Argentina: Malbec wines are taking over]