INsite Magazine

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wine of the Week

Winter has set in, even here in sunny Gainesville, and so rich and ripe, red wines are the best choice to warm some cockles. A varietal we often forget in North America is Argentina's Malbec. The grape originated in France and is still a junior partner in the classic Bordeaux red blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. Malbec is the major player in another French wine, Cahors, from the Dordogne region (pretty close to the Cro Magnon caves of Lascaux) but in Argentina the grape has found real prominence and a ripeness of flavor not as common in French Malbecs. Most California Malbecs are used up in Meritage or Claret blends, though a few producers bottle straight Malbec. 

The wines from this grape are medium-bodied, but have a spicy character reminiscent of Shiraz, so can work for both lovers of Cabernet and Merlot. Malbec is not as tannic as most Cabernets, but has a more dense flavor and a longer finish than most Merlots. Malbec can be a great pairing choice at a restaurant where everyone is getting different entrees but still want to share the same bottle. I find that the grape can work with a whole range of foods from BBQ to filet mignon to lighter vegetarian dishes.  

The new vintage of the Don Rodolfo Malbec, by Vina Cornejo Costas from the Cafayate Valley in the North, is big and spicy, with aromas of black currants and ripe plums on the nose, finishing with white pepper spice and a hint of cigarbox on the finish. This is not a wimpy Malbec, though it softens with a little aeration. The density of flavor and the 13.5 percent alcohol can keep us warm on these frigid winter nights. The price is about $13 per bottle, but there are many affordable Malbecs from around Mendoza worth giving a try like the Norton Malbec and the new Lote 44 Malbec from the Catena Family which is $9 but big and ripe and almost Zinfandel like in character. If you are a soft Cabernet or jammy Shiraz lover, you will learn to love Malbec, and be very happy that you can get great wines at affordable prices. Cheers!

-Daniel EddyGainesville Wine Pairing Examiner and Store Mananger at Gator Spirits, Westgate Plaza

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