Today’s topic up for discussion – Malbec, and how it is flowing more freely than some of the most consumed varietals of the past.
The United States market is quite interesting when it comes to what is hot and what is not, no matter the topic of discussion. Most times it is driven by factors unrelated to quality, but through the uber genius marketing department of the new “ish”. Maybe the fact that Malbec has become so Hot is a true sign that this trend is on its way out, and quality is on its way in. Whatever the reason, I am happy about it, and so are the many others who partake in filling their glass with some liquid pressing of the ever delicious Malbec Varietal.
First let us take a look at the journey of the Malbec grape as it is transformed from its origin to modern day production. The grape is originally one of the six varietals allowed in the blending of the famous juice of Bordeaux, being known to provide color and fresh fruit to the overall liquid. The poor beauty lost its popularity in Bordeaux after the 1956 frost which killed off more than 75 percent of the crops. Today, you will find most of the French plantings of Malbec in a region in France called Cahors. Consumer beware, although amazingly delicious, it is a completely different wine than those of the Argentinean region. While it is on a decline in popularity in France, it is surging in Argentina, being noted as a “National Varietal” of sorts. The first plantings in Argentina are recorded from the 19th century, when a French agronomist was instructed to bring the vine cuttings from France, and plant them in Argentina.
Argetina’s most highly noted Malbecs are sourced from high altitude regions of Mendoza, specifically Lujan de Cuyo, and the Uco Valley, located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. This is where my list of favorites comes in. To choose one in particular was extremely difficult, but looking over my tasting notes of Malbec, found one with stars drawn all around it and a little side note “MY FAVORITE”. Vina Cobos “Bramare” Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina. Ironically enough, “Bramare” means to yearn for, as you will after your first sip. In the tasting notes you will see “dark, ripe and toasty, with layers of creamy boysenberry, plum and cassis, leading to mesquite and grilled herbs.” So these notes are a bit complex for the everyday drinker, but all you need to know is that this wine is delicious, full bodied, but not overly tannic (or dry) on the finish, and can lend itself to create a nice balance with some barbecue, or smoked meat dishes.
As with any varietals, there are going to be those unripe, off balanced Malbecs out there, so take this tip with you to your next liquid botanical garden experience (my geeked out name for a liquor store), when buying a Malbec, look for the higher altitude versions…Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley specifically. I am pretty sure that this will help you nail a solid Malbec experience.
As always my friends, I love to hear your favorites or obscure finds, e-mail me and share the journey. Until next time – Cheers!