Each year, a day is designated for the celebration of a specific wine grape (as if we need another reason to open a bottle of wine…). Perhaps you can compare the day to an anniversary or birthday during which wine aficionados profess their love and appreciation for whatever variety is wearing Bacchus’ crown. On Monday, April 17, it’s time for Malbec to be the guest of honor, whether at wine shop tastings, restaurant food and wine pairing dinners, or in the comfort of your home as you watch a re-run of Evita.

But what do you really know about Malbec, an Old World grape that, for the last twenty years, has burst on the scene (and wine lists) thanks to a New World revival?

Malbec is a purple grape variety that originated around the Cahors region in southwest France. Still used as a grape in Bordeaux blends, Malbec from Cahors was important in Roman times and during the Medieval period; it became somewhat of an afterthought after the late 19th century phylloxera epidemic in Europe… until winemakers in Argentina made Malbec great again. It was introduced in that South American country in 1853 by a French agricultural engineer who wanted to improve the quality of wines. Now, Malbec is one of the predominant varietals in the country, one that produces over 75% of the world’s Malbec wines.



Photo Credit: www.conchaytoro.com

Fortunate fans can enjoy an affordable Malbec from not only Argentina and France, but from Chile, the United States, South Africa, Australia, and other countries. As you may expect, its profile is affected by terroir and climate. In Argentina, for example, where high elevation vineyards are abundant, Malbec tends to be more fruit forward with higher acidity, plenty of tannic structure, and floral and herbal nuances. A French Malbec from Cahors, however, expresses rustic notes with gentle tannins, low acidity, and tastes of tobacco, raisin, anise, and red fruit. In general, tannins in a beautiful Malbec are softer than a Cabernet Sauvignon and flavors may include cocoa, tobacco, vanilla spice, juicy red plums, and ripe blueberries.



Photo Credit: www.achaval-ferrer.com

When you’re ready to open one of the mouthwatering examples of 100% Malbec reviewed below (all sent as samples), consider pairing each with a delicious lunch or dinner. You’ll enjoy each sip even more when complemented with lean flank steak, filet mignon, or a juicy sirloin still sizzling from the grill. Try your grandmother’s special recipe for pot roast or roast beef with one of the choices found below or serve your favorite Malbec with homemade lasagna, roast chicken, tender lamb, or thinly cut slices of a peppery pork tenderloin.

It’s time to celebrate Malbec World Day on Monday, April 17 (or any day, for that matter!). Invite your friends to drop by, have your favorite foods on hand, and open bottles of these exceptional finds at prices you’ll love. Cheers!

Achaval Ferrer 2015 Malbec ($25) – From Mendoza, Argentina, Malbec grapes were sourced from three appellations. Those cultivated in the clay soils of the Lujan de Cuyo offer elegance, those from Medrano with its warm climate and sandy soils contribute structure and complexity, and Malbec grown in the Uco Valley, with its cold nights, express high acidity. The winemaking team feels that the 2015 Malbec shows a “very particular elegance and finesse” and I couldn’t agree more. On the nose, I discovered intense aromas of black cherries, dark red fruit, and red flowers. Bright acidity and well defined tannins were the foundation to flavors of lavender, tobacco, plum, blackberry, anise, herbs, juicy red fruit, earth, and spice. Balanced and refreshing, the Achaval Ferrer 2015 Malbec exudes plenty of character you’re probably craving right now.

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2014 ($20) – Vineyards on stony, alluvial soil in the Lujan de Cuyo appellation of Mendoza, Argentina produced the Malbec grapes in this enchanting wine. Malbec lovers will find rich aromas of plums, blackberries, sweet tobacco, vanilla and cinnamon, all of which lead into intense and elegant flavors on the palate. Bolstered by lip smacking acidity and smooth tannins, the graceful finish prompted me to pour another glass…and at this price, why not?

Antigal Uno 2013 Malbec ($18) – Sophistication and style are prominent in this well-priced Malbec from high elevation vineyards in the Uco Valley in Argentina. Aged for 8-10 months in French and American oak, aromas of cocoa, smoke, dark black and red fruit, and spice enticed me to take that first sip…then savor! There, I found a broad, round mouthfeel boasting bright acidity, satin-like tannins, and luscious flavors of plums, blackberries, red fruit, cocoa, and tobacco. Light up the grill and open the wine!

 Concha Y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Malbec 2014 ($17) – The “River Series”, of which this Malbec is a part, is a group of Specific Origin wines from Concha Y Toro.  Each variety is grown close to one of Chile’s major rivers that are formed by waters from melting snows of the Andes. The type of terroir, mineral rich and free draining soil, along the river is optimal for grape growing.  The east-west position of the valleys allows sea breezes and cold mountain air to blend with the warm, sunny climate of the interior.

Exuding a broad, mesmerizing profile is the Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Malbec 2014 from D.O. Marchigue within the Colchagua Valley. Fresh aromas of spice, red fruit, and a zesty minerality led to notes of black plums, blueberries, chocolate, and hint of tobacco on the palate. With the right amount of acidity to balance the ever-so-smooth tannins and a long, satisfying finish that begs you to pour another glass, you’ll do just that.

Mercer Estates Horse Heaven Hills Malbec 2014 ($20) – What an exceptional Malbec from the state of Washington.  After aerating for about 30 minutes, I discovered aromas of plums, blueberries, chocolate, and hint of toast on the nose leading to flavors of juicy cherries, blueberries, and plums, and chocolate framed with mouthwatering acidity and velvety tannins – just delightful with each sip.


Cheers to Malbec! ~ Cindy


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