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Friday, November 28, 2014

Malbec: The Other Red Wine

Wine tasting is by far one of my favorite pastimes. When I started contributing articles to Helium, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be able to write about wine. I am far from an expert on the subject, but in the fall after hurricane Katrina (the following fall - 2006) I started attending tastings around town on a regular basis, and after the first year of sampling and note taking, I realized I had compiled quite a lot of information.

Before that time, I hadn't given much thought to all the range of wine varietals that exist. By the fall of the following year (2007) I had also taken over as the organizer of a based wine group. By the time I started contributing to Helium, I was ready to do quite a lot of wine writing, only I soon discovered that crafts and how-to articles were a lot more profitable.

I don't go out to taste quite as much anymore, but with Helium soon to be no longer in existence, I'm glad I still have my wine blog available to become the new home for my previously published wine articles like this one from March 2009, on the subject of Malbec wine.

A Guide to Malbec Wine

Most red wine drinkers are familiar with the major grape varietals in producing red wines such as Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, but there is another lesser known grape that is steadily gaining in popularity with the resurgence of wine tasting venues and growing wine imports.
The Malbec grape, which is produced the most in Argentina, used to be more widely used in wine production until a devastating frost destroyed a significant amount of crops, causing French growers to pull out the vines in favor of more hearty varietals for the clime.
In most instances, what little Malbec vines that are cultivated is mostly used for blending to round out French Bordeaux as well as Bordeaux-style wines produced in other countries. Some believe the fact that Malbec is known by a multitude of aliases has also contributed to its decline over the years. It was first introduced into Argentina in 1868, and the only place outside of Argentina still producing Malbec in any volume is Cahors, France.
The weather and terrain of Argentina produce an entirely different type of wine than the old word style Malbec and it is quickly gaining ground among new world wine drinkers who prefer fruit forward wines that don't have to be consumed with food in order to fully enjoy them.
However, Malbec almost all but disappeared from Argentina as well after a massive vine pull in the 1980's when it was thought the more widely known reds would be more profitable to grow.
Thanks to the increased production of Malbec in Argentina red wine lovers now have a new wine to experience and enjoy at a nice range of price points beginning under $10 U.S.
Some wines from this thin-skinned grape can impart a strong earthy or even barnyard smell on the nose initially, but this usually dissipates with aeration or decanting. The "Reserve" versions tend to be more intense and are better accompanied by food.
On the palate Malbec promises an interesting and appealing journey of flavors unlike any other red wine. The wine will provide one taste experience shortly after opening, another after airing for thirty or so minutes and still another after an hour.
Flavor notes of Malbec can include plum, cherry, tobacco, cocoa, blueberry, and aromatic herbs. It should be noted that a wine from the same case may taste significantly different when opened several months or years later.
At the lower end the price range Elsa Bianchi Malbec offers up a decent flavor profile at a value price, usually under $10.00 U.S. While in the $10 to $15 range Bodega Septima offers a very drinkable, fruit forward wine with notes of green tobacco initially that give way to ripe fruit and cocoa and has the added advantage of being just as drinkable the next day (and the next) if the unfinished bottle is recorked and stored in the refrigerator overnight.
Also in that range, Graffigna offers another socially friendly Malbec which is rich and fruit forward with notes of cocoa. In particular, the 2005 Kaiken Malbec offered up a surprisingly floral quality on the nose and palate with plenty of fruit.
In the $15 to $20 range Casa Marguery (2006) offers one of the most interesting Malbec experiences around as the wine will literally evolve in the glass. It starts out with that leathery tobacco taste and feel that is common to some Malbecs and slowly blossoms into something softer and cocoa hued until it reaches its smoother fruit forward climax with tinges of blueberry.
The 2005 Graffigna "Grande Reserve" is a bit heavier bodied than its lesser priced cousin but still has some forward fruit and cocoa notes to it. Benmarco has a very earthy nose yet is light with bright fruit and little bitterness in back. The Ricardo Santos 2007 has nice fruit and unusual aromatics that suggest fennel.
In the $20 and up range Poetico offers a very nice soft wine with subtle tannins, good fruit and a slight hint of cocoa. The aromatic Las Perdices Ice is kind of sweet-ish with a rosè-like quality offering a completely different experience than would be expected with Malbec.
Malbec is gaining in popularity as Argentine and other South American bottles make their way to markets across the globe. Avid red wine lovers will surely soon be hooked on this fabulous wine varietal after sampling just a few different bottles.
Interestingly enough, I didn't like Malbec the first few times I tried it. It was just way too "barn yard." I happened to be at the Saturday afternoon tasting at Bacchanal one weekend and mentioned to an acquaintance that I found the featured Malbec being sampled almost pleasant. We met up for dinner after the tasting and she brought in a glass of wine for me to try that completely changed my perception of Malbec - the Kaiken, mentioned above. That's the great thing about wine, it's one liquid adventure after another.