Monday, April 4, 2011

A little history on Malbec

Malbec grapes originated in France and play the starring role in the wine production of Argentina. The flavors and aromas of wines made from Malbec grapes include dark blackberry, black pepper, cherry, plums, and chocolate. Other characteristics of Malbec wines include inky-black coloring, soft or high tannins, and high acidity. It can be chewy too. It’s earthy and is great with pizza or pasta with tomato sauce, barbeque pork, roasted meats, Asian and spicy foods.

Malbec grapes are reasonably small, very dark, and juicy. Monitoring the fruit on the vines is important to ensure good concentration of flavors. Luckily, the Argentine wine industry's almost 100% reliance on irrigation, it almost never rains, which gives the winemakers the tools they need to improve quality of the fruit.

Yet, Malbec is fairly sensitive to its climate. In cooler conditions and in Mendoza, which means in the higher the altitudes, it makes it a thick-skinned grape which develops high acidity and tannic content, leading to more robust wines. At lower the altitudes the grapes have much thinner skins, a lot more more juice, and make wines that are light-bodied and better for drinking young.

Malbec was initially one of the minor blending varieties of red Bordeaux, it now accounts for a very small percentage of local production. But its real home now is just about totally in Argentina, where after about 100 years of cultivation it has come into its own both as a pure varietal, and also gets blended with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

As a varietal in Argentina is where Malbec flourishes and produces both complex wines and also wines of softer tannins and strong fruit flavors. I urge you to keep these in mind and enjoy these regularly for some great values and also while having some good tasty food. Some of my favorites are the 2009 LaMadrid, the 2009 Pascual Toso, the rich and supple 2008 Trapiche (Jorge Miralles Single Vineyard), the 2008 Bodega Norton Reserva and the any of the last 2 or 3 vintages of the Norton blend called Privada.

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