Malbec and More!

It’s not just an inexpensive wine from Argentina.

When most people hear of Malbec, they think of an inexpensive wine from Argentina, however, Malbecs origins can be traced back to France’s Bordeaux and Cahors regions.

During the late 1800s, Malbec vines were planted in Argentina, where this thin-skinned grape thrives due to the moderate climate.  Argentinean Malbecs are typically jammy, full-bodied wines with a touch of pepper on the finish, but with the resurgence of French malbecs and modern farming and winemaking techniques, it can be much more than that.

In France Malbec is still grown in Bordeaux and Cahors. In Bordeaux, it is grown in small amounts and used as a blending grape for Bordeaux blends. Malbec adds a deep color and tannins to the world famous Bordeaux’s. In Cahors, Malbec is the main grape with a minimum of 70 percent required in the blend due to strict laws. Malbecs from Cahors are a deep red or violet in color, with dark fruit flavors like plum and blackberry. They have ample tannins and earthy flavors on the finish and can age for a long time, making them elegant and well-structured wines, much more complex than their Argentinean counterparts.  

Malbec grapes are also grown in the United States, mainly in California’s Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Sonoma Valley, and Anderson Valley. Here the grape is used for blending just like in Bordeaux. The grape is used in Claret and Meritage blends to add a deep red color, darker fruit flavors, and robust tannins. Malbec is also planted in Oregon, Washington, and New York, mainly for blending purposes, but there has been experimentation to try and create a pure Malbec wine.  

In Argentina, Malbec is considered the national variety and most widely planted varietal.  Malbec was introduced to Argentina during the late 1800s by French agriculturists trying to preserve the grape from the phylloxera epidemic. Malbec grapes thrived in the Mendoza region of Argentina, creating wines that are fruitier with softer tannins and slightly less structure than the Malbecs of France.  

As Argentinean Malbecs became more popular, the farmers began to experiment with growing the grape at higher elevations in their Mendoza farms. This led to winemakers creating Malbec wines with more structure and tannins with darker fruit flavors, more similar to their French counterparts.  

If you enjoy your typical Malbec from Argentina, I recommend Altos Las Hormigas.  This wine has nice jammy fruit up front with light tannins and pepper on the finish. If something sweeter is your thing, I recommend Dos Minas. Jammy red fruit is featured with very light tannins and a touch of pepper on the finish.  

If you want to try a more complex Malbec from Argentina, I recommend Taymente. This wine features concentrated blackberry and violet flavors with robust tannins and spice on the finish. For a special occasion, I would recommend Altos Appellation Altamira, a full-bodied wine with violet and dark fruit, strong tannins, spice and great structure with a long complex finish.  

I highly recommend trying Chateau la Coustarelle Cahors, this 9 percent Malbec 10 percent Tannat blend is exceptional. It features plum and blackberry on the palate with robust tannins and great structure throughout, the finish is elegant and long.

For some great blends with a touch of Malbec, I recommend Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington or Ramey Claret from Napa Valley California. Both wines benefit from the robust tannins and deep color that Malbec adds to them.

Enjoy what suits your palate and, as always, if you have any questions ask your local wine professional to help you find what you might like best.

Christmas Wine

Do a little ‘detective work’ and find the best wines

Here we are a few days from Christmas.  What better gift than wine? It’s the gift that helps those you love to celebrate the holidays. Here is a little guide to buying wine to gift for the holidays.

The first element to plan out is how much you want to spend on each individual who is lucky enough to be on your gift list. You might want to spend $50 on your boss’s gift and only $10 on cousin Timmy’s. There are great wines out there for each price range, so it is important to choose carefully. Second, do a little research to find out each person’s preference, red or white, sweet or dry, full bodied or something a little lighter. Try and include these questions in some everyday conversation to get the hints you need to get the perfect wine gift. You might try a phrase such as, “I was out to dinner the other night and had this great bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. What’s your favorite wine?’

Now that you’re armed with the proper information, it’s time to do your shopping. I would advise going to a wine shop where the staff is knowledgeable so they can help you select the perfect wine in each category.

While shopping for those less expensive gifts, those in the $10 range, I recommend getting a bottle that is not mainstream. If you bring someone a bottle of Yellowtail Cabernet, they will know exactly what you spent. If you pick out a bottle of Tres Palacios Cabernet from Chile, you will be giving them a better bottle of wine for around the same price and they may think you splurged on them.

When you jump up into the $20 range, there are some great wines you can choose from, some mainstream, and some not as well known. The decision is up to you if you want your recipient to know exactly how much you spent. You can give them a bottle of Meiomi Pinot Noir and they will know you spent $20 or you can give them a bottle of Rickshaw Pinot Noir and they will think you spent $20 or more when in actuality you only spent $17. You can get them a bottle of Kendall Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon, or get them Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon, both around $20, however, the Chateau Smith is a much better wine.

There is an important question to ask yourself when you get into the $30-$50 range. Does the person I am giving this gift to know anything about wine? If they don’t, I would look for something with name recognition, Stags Leap or Caymus. If they have good wine knowledge, I would go with something different that they may not have tried before, like Hollis or Ramey. They will thank you for introducing them to something new that would be considered a better wine for less money.

If you’re looking to buy something from that $50- $100 dollar range for someone special, name recognition may be important to you. Just ask your local wine professional to help you out with this type of selection. If it’s a brand you’re not familiar with, ask the person helping you for a little information, then you can pass that on to the recipient.

To recap, decide your budget for each individual, then do your best detective work to find out their personal preferences. Take this information to your favorite wine shop and ask questions. A knowledgeable clerk or owner will love to help you out, that’s why they are in this business, to talk about wine and help people find that perfect bottle to create a great memory.

Let’s remember that the holidays are all about giving. With the proper knowledge and help, you can find the perfect wine or spirit gift for those who you care about. Feel free to ask me any questions at rob@vinovinonline.com and Happy Holidays to all.