In honor of Argentina’s first Malbec World Day, I’m dedicating this post to the future annual celebration and the country’s ‘hero’ grape – Malbec.
Malbec World Day was established by the Wines of Argentina council with the goal of creating a worldwide celebration of the main grape grown in Argentina. The date of April 17th was chosen as it coincides with the establishment & recognition of Quinta Normal – an organization that sought to bring new grape varietals and establish the wine industry of Argentina – by the Argentine government. April 17th represents the starting point of the wine industry in Argentina and the establishment of Malbec as its lead grape.
Malbec World Day organized tastings and events all around the world including Toronto, New York, Washington, London, Napa and of course Mendoza. The main feature of the festival, however, was a three-way international blend of the ‘perfect’ Malbec. Three top world wine experts flew to Argentina to pick the grapes to use in their wine. Wines of Argentina is then flying the grapes back to each of their home countries and giving the experts the task of bottling the perfect Malbec, in the Argentine way. After 12 months of preparation and cellaring, the experts and the wines will return for a competition. I guess we’ll have to wait for the 2nd annual Malbec World Day to know the results of that one.
In our own sort of way, we’re celebarting Malbec by featuring a few of our favorites below…
89 points Wine Spectator, 92 points Wine Advocate
Bold fruit flavors balanced by a freshness from the acidity; flavors of ripe berries, cocoa and a hint of oak.
Salta (Andean NW), Argentina
70% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Syrah, 5% Tannat
Grown at the highest altitude in the world (10,000 ft for Cabernet, 7,000 ft for Malbec), this wine displays the typical fruit you’ll find in Malbec’s and blends from this region with a restraint on the heavy structure and body. Balanced tannins and oak adds a bit of a spice on the finish.
Argentina has multiple wine growing regions, but Mendoza is the shining star, producing more than 60% of Argentina’s wine. Argentina itself is the 5th largest wine producing country in the world and they have been making wine since the 1500’s. Up until the 1990’s Argentinians have been more focused on quantity rather than quality, with 90% of wine produced being consumed inside the country. A shift in thinking and desire to capture a lucrative export market has driven many wine makers to begin producing quality wines at higher price points. With the devalue of the Argentine Peso in the early 2000’s, tourism has increased due to the country’s affordability for Americans and Europeans. This has allowed wine tours to become increasingly popular and has created a growing awareness of Argentina’s wine region.
Mendoza lies 500 miles Northwest of Argentina’s capital city, Buenos Aires. The region is tucked up against the dramatic Andes Mountain Range. Due to high altitude and low humidity of the region, the vineyards in this region rarely face issues with fungi, mold, insects and grape diseases that other countries deal with. This allows for little to no pesticides for the majority of the vineyards and offers ease of producing organic wines…good news for the sustainable wine enthusiast!
Another aspect that the vineyards at the base of the mountains have in their favor is the use of spring run-off. Dating back to the 1500’s the Argentinians began building complex irrigation canals to channel snow melt from the Andes to sustain the vineyards and agriculture. Once the irrigation systems are in place, the grapes have a metered water supply.
The most common grape you are likely to find when shopping for wines from Mendoza is the Malbec. Malbec was introduced from France and has been found to thrive in this particular region. Other popular varietals is the Italian Bonarda grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay.
What may come to a surprise is actually how large of a region Mendoza is, meaning they have micro climates, just like Napa and Sonoma. You can get a good idea of what characteristics your Malbec is going to have by where it came from. Agrelo and Lujan de Cuyo are located in the warmer Northern region of Mendoza, producing Malbecs with rich, muscular profiles and black fruits. In the South, areas of the Uco Valley such as Tupungato and La Consulta are cooler and tend to produce Malbecs with vibrant fruit and minerality. Remember, when you move North within the country, you are heading to warmer climates, South is cooler. The Argentine snowbirds head North for the winter!
If you visit Mendoza, keep in mind that the growing season is opposite than the Northern Hemisphere. Grapes are starting to bud in October with harvest usually beginning in February. That means the best time to see the grapes, green leaves, warm weather and jump into the tasting rooms is during summer, Oct-Feb.
Now that you are probably thirsty, here are some delicious thirst quenchers straight from Mendoza.
Nieto Senetiner Bonarda Reserva 2007 – $35
Lujan de Cuyo – Bright, saturated ruby. Brooding aromas of crushed blackberry, leather, tobacco and smoky oak. Sweet and primary, with nicely concentrated flavors of crushed dark berries. Finishes with ripe, fine tannins and a note of dark chocolate.
Antigal Uno Malbec 2007 – $20
Tupungato Valley – Intense fruits with significant hints of oak. Silky but concentrated with a balanced and elegant finish.
Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec 2007 – $15
Tupungato Valley – Made with organically grown grapes. Opaque violet, almost black in color. Ripe plum and chocolate flavors with a soft, supple mouthfeel. Voted a Wine Spectator Best Buy.
Buy these wines at http://www.decantedwines.com and receive a 10% discount on a case! Or shop in-store at Decanted Wines, 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Suite 21, Naples FL 34108.
If you are like many people, you have your Easter menu planned well in advance, or in most cases, you have a traditional family meal that’s always prepared. But with all the advanced preparations, have you thought to chose the right wine to accompany your meal? Now, the “right wine” is subjective. It’s all a matter of personal preference. Some of you may only prefer a sweeter style white wine, and some only drink red. We have some suggestions to satisfy those differentiating palettes at your dinner table.
If you are serving ham this Easter, there are numerous wines you could serve. Many people choose a sweet topping or glaze to counter the saltiness of the meat. In that case, a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer are going to be your best option. Both wines have a dry fruitiness that is both refreshing and palette cleansing. The sweet, round mouth-feel compliments any sweetness in the topping and the acidity will balance the salt of the meat. If you prefer a dryer style Riesling, try a Washington State Barnard Griffin Riesling $13 or Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl $17. For a more fruit forward, sweeter style Riesling, try an Alsatian or German Riesling such as Fritz’s Riesling $14. For a lighter, aromatic and elegant Gewürztraminer, try Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer $15. If you are a Chardonnay drinker, try a lightly oaked style like White Rock Chardonnay $32.50.
For the red wine drinkers, depending on how you present your ham, you could pair either a Zinfandel or a Pinot Noir. With the sweet glazed ham, a red fruit forward, low tannin Zinfandel would handle well, such as Axis Zinfandel $15. For a spicily prepared ham with cloves and herbs, an Oregon Pinot Noir would be fantastic. Try Archery Summit Premier Cuvee $48.
Lamb and sheep are often associated with spring. Maybe it’s the fact they give birth in the spring to wobbly little babies and springtime in itself is associated with new life. In any case, lamb is another popular choice for Easter dinner. Lamb is a fairly robust meat and should be paired accordingly with a red wine that can handle its full flavors. This wine should have decent tannins, a fair amount of fruit and a lengthy finish that won’t be overpowered by the meat. There are a number of red wines that can accomplish all of those qualifications, from a Cabernet to a Malbec, Merlot and Tempranillo. Try
Jax Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $40
Volver Tempranillo, La Mancha, Spain $16
Stags’ Leap Winery Merlot, Napa Valley $22
Argento Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina $12
If you are feeling that you really want to get in the spirit of Easter and embrace the roots of Easter’s Israeli heritage, try a kosher wine from Israel – Recanati Chardonnay and Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon $17 each from Galilee. The Chardonnay is a California style oaked style with a smooth buttery finish. Their Cabernet is fruit forward with soft tannins, easily paired with the traditional lighter dishes of Easter.