While Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay still dominate the American retail market, everyday wine buyers are exploring new varietals in ever increasing numbers. One varietal getting a lot of new consumer attention this year is Malbec. Malbec has been around a long time and once was commonly found in Bordeaux but, except for the Cahors region, its usage by the French has diminished substantially.
Malbec is a thin-skinned grape that requires a lot of sun and heat to ripen. It produces a dark inky colored wine with deep fruit flavors and robust tannins. It has found a true home in Argentina and is gaining ground in Chile. The South American Malbec is somewhat unique, offering smaller size grapes in tighter clusters than what is found in France. That and the high altitude terroir result in a slightly softer, less tannic wine than the French versions. Despite the fact that Malbec is grown almost everywhere, the South American and the French expressions of this grape are the preferred ones to explore. French Cahors imports to the U.S. are trending up 66% this year and Argentine imports, as a whole, are up 55% largely based largely on Argentine Malbecs and the white Argentine Torrontes.
Here are some Malbec recommendations from The Wine Guy:
Bodega Norton Lo Tengo Malbec:
This is a second label from one of Argentina’s premiere producers; this is a little lighter style Malbec that still manages to maintain good balance and flavor. Once you try Lo Tengo, step up a notch to a consistently good Malbec: Bodega Norton Malbec Reserva.
Don Miguel Gascon Malbec:
This is a full-bodied Argentine Malbec with a little more emphasis on fruit. It has lots of plum up front but winds up with a true Malbec finish.
Here’s a big and bold wine with the signature Malbec tannins right up front and dominant.
As you explore Argentine Malbecs, search for old vine, high altitude wines. They offer the very best you’ll find in South American Malbec. Achaval-Ferrer is one such South American producer and nearly all of their wines are not to be missed. Here are two of the best:
Achaval-Ferrer Los Finca Altamira:
80+-year-old vines at 3400 feet in attitude combined with good winemaking make this single vineyard Malbec a classic.
Achaval-Ferrer Quimera: A Bordeaux-style blend dominated with high altitude, old vine Malbec and one of The Wine Guy’s all time favorites.
Once you’ve explored the South American Malbecs, try the very dark, inky, richness of a French Cahors. Cahors must contain 70% Malbec and can be blended with Merlot and Tannant (a great grape in its own right), but one I enjoy a lot is 100% organic Malbec:
Domaine Cosse Masionneuve Cahors LeFage.
Go for the Malbec and enjoy your exploration!
About The Author:
"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.
Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)