Tag Archives: argentina

Malbec: Did I find God in the vineyards?

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Did I find God in the vineyards? That must have happened because I can’t even explain it normal terms. On January 16, 2012, in a little town called La Consulta, my colleagues (Thane, Neil, Peter, Brett) and I tasted something magical. We flew in from the US on a Tour de Argentina and Chile to meet with some of those countries’ superstar winemakers. But no moment of this trip was greater than the time with we spent with Karim Mussi Saffie, Proprietor and Winemaker of Altocedro in La Consulta, Mendoza. The plan was to check out the winery, the vineyards, taste wines, eat food and drink, but what transpired was more than we had expected.

It began innocently enough, I had already spent many quality moments with Karim in previous (both in the United States and in Argentina) we even rode horses together once in the Andes. Now we were here. At one moment, Karim was looking at me with his intricate and sometimes devilish grin. I had no idea what he was up to but knew he was super excited to pour this wine for me. I was just taking notes and photographing everything in sight. Then he served it: The 2009 Altocedro Gran Reserva Malbec. My brain spun into another space and time. I found myself in a corridor of Bordeaux varieties. Where was I? In the Médoc, the Napa Valley, Walla Walla Washington? The wine’s intense dark fruits and sweet earth took Malbec to another level. When I came back, I just saw Karim grinning from ear to ear. This is only an example of where a good Malbec can take you.

Where is Malbec going? For decades it was known mostly as the grape from Cahors. More learned wine folks also knew the grape from the Southwest of France, where it is called, Côt. But as the world spins, most consumers saw Malbec as that “value” red wine from Argentina. If one just needed a Cabernet-like wine in the $10 to $20 range, Argentina Malbec was the answer. But somewhere in the night the grape was screaming, “There is more to my existence than being the wine at cocktail parties and barbecues.” Yes, in addition to being a great value red wine, Malbec has scaled the mountain to become one of the world’s great varietals.  It takes the Bordeaux blends from the region to a new level, producing wine that is complex and balanced. Age-worthy? Definitely – just check out an older vintage from Catena.  Malbec has spoken. Enjoy it’s possibilities and most definitely taste the 2013 Altocedro Año Cero Malbec and get a glimpse of the Mussi magic!

Year in Review – Top Appellations of 2009 Part 3: Argentina

Argentina is hitting it big these days. With the popularity of Malbec still growing, and the recognition from media and retailers to some grapes sarge vinespecific to Argentina (like Torrontes and Bonarda), Argentina is on the right track. Sales of wine from here grew 60% last year and most of the wines coming from this country are well in the value range, which is what people like these days!

Argentina Facts:

-Argentina is the 5th largest producer of wine in the world
-Malbec, the grape most often used as a blending variety in Bordeaux and Bordeaux blends, has found a home in the high elevation vineyards of the country.
-Torrontes, a white variety unique to Argentina, is delightfully aromatic and crisp. Salta is a region further north that is becoming well known for Torrontes and other white wines.
-Many of Argentina’s vineyards are very high elevation, which is one of the reason’s Malbec is able to thrive – the dry air and strong temperature catenawineryshifts keep it disease and rot-free. But they do have to mind the hail storms here…
-Mendoza is the heart of Argentina grape growing, and is just a 45 minute flight from Santiago. Though you wouldn’t want to try the drive as that would take you through the Andes mountains.
-Bonarda   is a unique Argentine grape variety that is used mostly in blends, but occasionally as a single varietal – worth trying!

While Malbec is definitely the “state bird” of Argentina, other grapes are making excellent wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and, becoming ever more popular, red blends. So pick up some wine from this tango country – you’ll find many deals under $20 and the wines are certainly well worth it.

Malbec. It’s hot.

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Malbec. Everyone’s talking about it. Everyone’s drinking it. It’s on wine lists and wine shelves and it’s taken the US wine market by storm. In fact, imports of Argentinean wine have jumped 39% in the first 6 months of this year, and a majority of that jump is Malbec. Talk about hot, you’ve got to check out our amazing deal on the Melipal Malbec 2006 – 95 points and only $18. The perfect Malbec to try if you are new to the grape, and the perfect Malbec to buy if you are a seasoned Malbec lover.

What exactly makes this grape so hot?

So what exactly makes this grape so hot?

argentinaThe history: A bit of a Cinderella story, Malbec’s typical role has been as one of the five grapes in Bordeaux blends, but usually only composing a meager 5% or less, particularly in Bordeaux. The grape is susceptible to rot and is not the best of the bunch over in Bordeaux’s maritime climate. However, when placed in the high altitude vineyards of Argentina, Malbec showed its true colors (a very dense, purple color) and made itself a very happy home there. The county’s wine industry will never be the same – when consumers think Argentina, they think Malbec. When they think Malbec, they think Argentina.

The wine: This is the most important aspect of a grape, is it not? The wine it becomes? Malbec creates a wine that is dense and purple. Aromas include  blackberry, plum, black cherry, violets, mocha and spice. The styles range from sweet & jammy to spicy & peppery. The wines have smooth but firm tannins and often a touch of oak. The majority are concentrated. Some are easy-drinking quaffers while others can be more complex and layered. Big-wine lovers love this wine!

The food: Obviously the grape does not make food, but the wine coming from the grape is an excellent match with beef! Steak, roasts, grilled  beef ribs… it’s a meat wine. Which leads me to the next reason Malbec is hot…

The price: It’s a value! At a steak restaurant, when that California Cabernet you love looks too ridiculous at $150, look to Malbec. You’ll find some excellent wines under $50 (at the restaurant!) that will match your meat just as well – if not better – that your usual Cabernet. Most Malbecs fall in the $10 – $25 range, though some producers make complex, age-worthy Malbec in the $50+ range. Beauty of the wine is, you can drink very well at a very nice price.

Sold yet? Here are some producers to look for: Catena (one of the oldest producers in Argentina); Crios; Melipal; Dona Paula; Terrazas; La Posta; Zuccardi . There are many more producers that are excellent, so keep exploring!