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.

The VinoVin Members Club!

Rob and I have noticed that as a general rule the wines listed online don’t always offer the value they should.  In fact, when you include shipping (which can get costly) you’re usually paying more. The other big challenge is that you can track your package, but don’t have control over when it arrives.  VinoVin to the rescue.

We’re proud to announce the VinoVin Members Club, an exclusive club that provides 10% off on every order throughout the year on unlimited purchases* plus the ability to have your shipment held at will call at UPS if you have a change in your schedule.

The VinoVin Members Club will cost $99.00 starting July 14th, however, we’re offering exclusive sign-up right now for only $59.00, which means you only need to order wine a few times a year to really take advantage.

How It works:
Click below to buy your yearly membership.  After buying, you’ll receive your very own specialized discount code for 10% OFF on all items for 1 full year, starting at the date of your sign-up.  You can contact us for your order, or put it in on your own.  You’ll be able to include your delivery date request in the notes section of your order, or simply by emailing us at support@vinovinonline.com.

The price will automatically go up on July 14th, so you should definitely act quickly.

 


 

A Brief History of Prosecco

When I say a brief history, we’ll make this quick since its New Years Eve and everyone is more interested in drinking Prosecco than reading about it, but give us just a minute!

Prosecco can be dated back possibly as far back as the 16th century in Italy.  Modern Prosecco is significantly different however from its historical counterpart.  Until the mid-1960’s Prosecco was traditionally a very sweet wine; during the 1960s producers began to make higher quality, dry Prosecco that has grown in popularity to this day.

Prosecco is most commonly thought of as a sparkling wine, however, Prosecco can be sparkling, semi-sparkling or still.  In order for a wine to be labeled as a Prosecco in Italy, it must be made from a minimum of 85% Glera grapes (formerly known as Prosecco.)  Other grapes can be mixed in for the remaining 15%, these often include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Noir among others.  Wines produced following the same method as Prosecco with Glera but differing proportions are often labeled differently, such as ‘Secco Italian Bubbles‘ by Charles Smith.

Prosecco is often compared with (and occasionally confused with,) the other famous European bubbly wine, Champagne.  We have several recent posts talking about Champagne and method champenoise that you can check out on our old blog here.  The big difference for Prosecco and Champagne comes during secondary fermentation.  Champagnes secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle while Prosecco’s secondary fermentation occurs in the steel vats it ferments in.  This generally leads to a lower price point for Prosecco since it is less expensive to produce.  There are many other differences so this is an overarching generalization, however, the important distinctions have also been highlighted.

Happy New Year!

 

Coombsville, Up and Coming AVA in Napa Valley

It may be unusual for some readers to learn this, but for others, it may be common knowledge.  Napa is probably one of the only areas in the U.S. whose appellations are actually distinctive in terms of terroir.  Coombsville was recognized as an AVA (American Viticultural Area) in 2011.  The valley itself is a bit like a bowl shape, with terroir featuring rocky volcanic soil, little groundwater, and temperate weather in comparison with many other areas of Napa.

Why care about Coombsville? Look no further than the top wine in Paul Hobbs portfolio, a single-vineyard Cabernet that goes for $349.  The region is poised to produce some of the best Cabs in Napa, which is a bold statement.  The climate allows grapes to ripen later into the season and more slowly than other regions, holding acidity and balancing the fruit.   Keep an eye out on this region as the wines here will get more notice as time goes on.

 

Restaurant Wine Lists

A quick and dirty aside on restaurant wine lists.  I was in a restaurant today and saw a great wine list, full of choices.  A few items stood out to me, including a 2009 Brunello di Montalcino for $135.

If this is your kind of wine, I would never discourage anyone from drinking what they enjoy.  That said, a $135 bottle of Brunello from 2009 is not necessarily money well spent.  We’ve talked a lot in our blogs about the value of vintage.  That 2009 Brunello simply is not ready to drink and is from a vintage that is by no means phenomenal.  If the bottle was from an incredible producer, and the year was 2024 instead I would say this is a good value.

Again, since this is quick and dirty.  Our votes on wine lists for restaurants- stick with major wine producing regions like Napa, Sonoma, Willamette Valley, Columbia Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piedmont, Tuscany, and Rioja.  Stick in reasonable price ranges and focus on what you love.  That’s a quick and dirty aside on restaurant wine lists!

2015 Southern California Vintage Preview

I added a blog post recently on the Northern California vintage for 2015, but a quick recap of that post (or you can read it here)- winemakers expect that it will still be a great vintage despite the droughts this summer, and that trend seems to hold true for Southern California as well.

Yields are down significantly this year, about only half of what they were in 2013.  The fruit produced this season has gone through considerable hardship, which for grapes just like the rest of nature means only the strong survive.  The grapes are smaller this year than years past, combined with the lower yield ensures maximal quality in each grape.

There is one cause for concern that veteran winemakers and growers are saying not to worry about- the vintage ripened very early this year, like several weeks earlier.  The veteran winemakers and growers again assure that this will not impact the quality.  There is speculation by some that early ripening can affect flavor development, although that should not be a concern. Overall the 2015 vintage should be expected to really highlight Southern California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Other pros are saying to keep an eye out and stock the cellar with 2015. Consumers can expect price fluctuations for the 2015 vintage, given that the supply is lower and the quality may prove to be very good.

We will keep you posted for more!

What’s the deal with 2010 Barolo?

What’s the deal with Piedmont in 2010?I don’t want to assume anything about those who read our blog, so I’ll open up with the fact that 2010 was a banner vintage for much of Italy. 2010 Brunello, Barolo, and Barbaresco have all been hailed as one of the best in years, and part of the hype is that many are just being released now due to DOCG requirements. Today I’m just focusing on the 2010 Barolo.

I don’t want to assume anything about those who read our blog, so I’ll open up with the fact that 2010 was a banner vintage for much of Italy. 2010 Brunello, Barolo, and Barbaresco have all been hailed as one of the best in years, and part of the hype is that many are just being released now due to DOCG requirements. Today I’m just focusing on the 2010 Barolo.

So first, why the hype around any vintage? What’s the difference? The short answer is that the difference is in experience- a great vintage or a wine meant to age will drink differently than one meant to be drunk young (which is another article altogether.) What makes a vintage great? In the end, it comes down to the weather and the fruit. There are many other factors of course in play, but let’s not overcomplicate things. The weather in 2010 was superb- allowing grapes to ripen much later into October than in past seasons. The ripening of the fruit into late October, and subsequent harvesting into November allowed the fruit to mature into something that has seldom been seen in the last 10 years (although other vintages have been well received including 2004 and 2001.) Wines like 2010 Barolo continue to ‘soften’ with age.

What makes a vintage great? In the end, it comes down to the weather and the fruit. There are many other factors of course in play, but let’s not overcomplicate things. The weather in 2010 was superb- allowing grapes to ripen much later into October than in past seasons. The ripening of the fruit into late October, and subsequent harvesting into November allowed the fruit to mature into something that has seldom been seen in the last 10 years (although other vintages have been well received including 2004 and 2001.) Wines like 2010 Barolo continue to ‘soften’, that is become less tannic and increase in their complexity with years of bottle aging so long as they are stored well.

The vintage as of the writing of this posting is still available but very scarce, due to its popularity. Fortunately for our readers, we do have a (very) small supply still in stock.

Much of the information in this article was taken from the 2014 article “Your Guide to Top-Rated 2010 Barolo” in Wine Enthusiast by Kerin O’Keefe.

2015 Northern California Vintage Preview

We are looking forward at the current vintages before looking back at the past.  One of the questions that have come up looking at 2015 is exactly how the drought out west would impact Northern California wines.

In general, the drought has caused challenges for growers out in Napa Valley and other regions of Northern California, however, the combination of unusually warm weather and some rainfall has provided what they believe will be an excellent crop still this year.  We have mentioned in previous articles that the hot weather in the growing season can ultimately influence the fruit, tannins, and other aspects of the wine.  In this case, the grapes ripened early, but the sugar content in the grapes did not go excessively high prior to ripening and, therefore, the quality was mostly maintained.

There are other interesting notes, especially to buyers and lovers of Northern California wines.  The growing season and earlier ripening of the fruit have resulted in lower yields, similar to that of France and other wine regions.  The result of lower yields frequently means that grapes are of higher quality. Assuming this is the case, a smart buyer can also surmise that 2015 wines may be more valuable when they are released and in the future.  The bottom line however for right now is to keep an eye out until we have more information.

Hope you enjoyed! If you enjoyed reading this (and who doesn’t love wine!) please share this post, or give us a shoutout on Twitter @dandanwineman.

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.