Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Lesser Known Red Wine - Malbec

Some of you may have read about the grape called Malbec. Few of you, however, have probably ever tasted these intensely-flavored grapes originally hailing from the Cahors region of France. At one time, Malbec was one of the predominant grapes in all of France, but since the early 1900's, the grape has fallen on hard times, mostly because of the fact that Malbec is common like saying "Kleenex" instead of tissue. Malbec, you see, has been called so many different names in France, that the grape hardly stands on its own for more than 50 years! The grapes have been grown in so many regions in France, that it has become the ultimate Supporting Cast member in blends of French wines. For example: Malbec is a part-time player in the Bordeaux blend called Claret, with Cabernet and/or Merlot taking center stage. It also plays a role in popular Loire Valley blends with Gamay & Cabernet Franc or Tannat grapes and in the US, it is a component in Meritage. So basically.....Malbec is your star blending grape in France and around the world. It takes a backseat to the big guys. But it hasn't always been that way. Throughout history, Malbec has been brought from France to all of the wine-growing regions around the world, from Portugal to Italy to Chile to Argentina to Australia and to the USA.
Malbec grows almost anywhere, but it is not an easy grape to grow to perfection. It has thin skins and large berries and needs lots of sunlight and is very, very frost-averse. The Malbec grapes grow in diverse terrain, therefore it is grown in many places around the world.

In recent years, Malbec has had a resurgence in Argentina, particularly in the Mendoza region. At one time, Malbec dominated the Argentinian wine market, but over 100,000 acres of vines were "pulled" in an attempt to create new growth of more "grapes of the moment" which was thought to help the wine market prevent a glut of indigenous vines. The vine pulls were government-sponsored programs which paid growers to remove Malbec and plant Cabernet or other grapes not grown there. You know how that turned out...... The Malbec that was retained, kept getting better and better and the other varietals have grown, but now Malbec is making a comeback! There are now over 25,000 acres of Malbec vines in Argentina, compared to 10,000 in the 1980's!

Allright, enough with the history....you all want to know what it tastes like!!! Malbec on its own is a bolder wines, somewhere between Merlot and Cabernet in weight, with a dark inky color like an Aussie Shiraz. The flavor profile of Malbec shows ripe black fruit, plums and blackberries. It is also a wine with bright, tight tannins. The wine has a big mouthfeel and can hold its own vs. some of the other big guys in the bottles....Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and some Merlots.

A Malbec Recommendation:

Last weekend, I shared a fantastic bottle with my brother Glen. It was 2005 Catena Alta Mendoza Malbec. The wine was tight upon opening, but we decanted and were presented with a full bodied wine with shining tannins and lots of deep, dark fruit flavors. We also noticed some chocolate and burnt spice which really gave the wine an interesting flavor profile. This Catena Alta was a star, and in the world of low price winners from this region, the price seemed a bit excessive at $44. However, like most wines of this quality, the wine is head and shoulders better than the very good, better QPR wines from the region. Once in awhile you have Filet Mignon and once in awhile you get a massage or other spa treatments. And so once in awhile you should have the Catena Alta Mendoza and say you have had the Filet of Malbec!

Thanks, Glen.

Cheers All!

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