Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Favorite Grapes: Malbec

This April 17 we will celebrate Malbec World Day, so I said to myself, the time has come to teach about one of the grapes that grows in my country- Argentina-promising you my dear winos to dedicate a post in the future to the other half of the Argentinean duo: Torrontés. 

What is not to love about Malbec? It has all the elements to be a crowd’s pleaser since it produces full bodied reds with velvety tannins, luscious fruit and plenty of spice. To that we can add the fact that it also offers great value with good wines starting at $15 and up.

There are two defined styles of Malbec, the Argentinean type (New World) will have plenty of black fruit notes, low to medium acidity, soft tannins and high alcohol and the wines of Cahors (Old World) which are usually more tannic with lower alcohol, higher acidity and featuring more herbal notes. 

Originally Malbec, also known as Cot, is from Cahors in SW France, where it produces some of the darkest, purple colored reds. I think it is a tie between Malbec and Syrah regarding which one has the darkest color… which by the way will help you identify this variety very easily, when tasting blind. So deep and dark is its juice, Malbec was known as the “Black wine of Cahors”, and in the past they were used to beef up and improve wines from other appellations too. Outside from SW France, Malbec plays a mini role as one of the five grape varieties allowed in the Bordeaux blend but these days is replaced by beefer Merlot. 

Malbec thrives in warm weather and requires more heat than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to ripen properly. It ripens at mid season and can suffer from frost and coulure. Argentinian Malbec is planted at some of the highest vineyards in the world, most of them are located at the foothills of the Andes, at heights between 2,800 to 5,000 feet. Altitude plays a very important role here to keep acidity levels in check. In Cahors, most vineyards are planted on gravel soils, the climate here is very much influenced by both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean seas but still with hot summers and rainy winters.

Because of its structure, Malbec best samples can age up to 20 years, inexpensive samples should be consumed within 5 years of their release, the rest can age up to 10 years. In Argentina most wines are 100% Malbec but there are also successful blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda. In Cahors, by law 70 % of the blend must be made from Malbec, which is usually complemented with 30% of Tannat and Merlot.

Malbec’s aromatic profile will show aromas of blackberry, boysenberry, plums, black cherry, stewed black fruits, cocoa dust, licorice and spices. With oak aging, vanilla, milk chocolate and tobacco notes.

Recommended Producers:
Argentina: Catena, Norton, Trapiche, Terrazas de Los Andes, Altavista, Achaval Ferrer, Vina Cobos, Bodegas Salentein,Vina Dona Paula, Colome, Bodegas El Esteco, Clos de los 7, Cheval des Andes.
France, Cahors: Château du Cèdre, Clos Triguedina, Château de Haute-Serre, Château Lagrézette, Domaine du Theron.

These are some of the Malbecs I have tasted lately:

Septima Malbec 2017,Mendoza Argentina $12
Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2017,Mendoza Argentina $15

Domaine du Theron, Cahors  2014 $18
Alta Vista Terroir Selection Malbec 2017, Mendoza Argentina $30

A special thanks to Kobrand,Colangelo PR and HB Merchants for providing samples for me to taste.

Cheers! Silvina 

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