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Magnificent Malbec from Argentina

Northside Staff Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Chris Coronel, Kelley O'Neill

Argentinean Malbec is hot. U.S. case sales of this red wine increased from 2.6 million in 2006 to 3.2 million in 2007 (Wine Spectator, Dec. 15, 2008). Dollar sales were up 87% in 2008 over 2007, according to the Nielsen Company.

Malbec originally hails from France, where it is also called Auxerrois or Cot. It is responsible for the southwestern French wine Cahors, and is used as a minor blending grape by many Bordeaux chateaux. Argentina, however, where the grape was introduced in 1868, seems to have become the modern home for this grape. Stylistically speaking, Argentinean wines made from Malbec generally come across more accessible, less tannic and structured, than their French counterparts, and often exhibit an appealingly warm, lush, dark fruit character.

The staff at Northside Wine and Spirits recently blind tasted 48 Argentinean Malbecs ranging in price from $7 to $45. It was easy to see the appeal of these wines. Most were cleanly made, exhibiting rich, dark fruit flavors frequently complemented by hints of chocolate, earth, spice, or hints of toasty new oak. Though the use of new oak was evident in many of these wines, it was for the most part not overdone.

The staff’s first place wine was stunning indeed. The 2007 Finca el Origen Malbec gran reserva is a truly fine wine, from its compelling, saturated appearance to its lovely, complex bouquet that leads to a palate packed with flavors reminiscent of both red and dark fruits with hints of leather, vanilla, and cinnamon lingering through a long, intense finish. Enjoyable now due to its dramatic fruit, the wine has plenty of soft, velvety tannins that should enable it to age nicely for at least a few years. Its cost, $25 per bottle, is certainly fair given the fine quality of this wine [Sku 11872].*

A standout for value in the tasting was the 2007 Dona Paula Malbec, priced at $14. With its spicy, ripe flavors framed by a judicious dollop of new oak, it is a delicious wine for near term consumption [Sku 7540].* Enjoy either of these wines with steaks, stews, or almost anything grilled.

"Top Wine Picks" as seen in The Ithaca Journal 3/16/2009.

*To Purchase this wine, simply type its "Sku" into the "Find" field at the top of the page, then click "Go."

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