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Magnificent Malbec

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

Argentinean Malbec is hot. In its April 2010 issue, Wine Business Monthly reports that the dollar value of wine sold in the U.S. had risen 3.0 percent in the previous year and 3.5 percent in the previous quarter. The same figures for Argentinean wines (largely Malbec) were 41.4 percent for the previous year and 36.6 percent for the previous quarter… wow!

The increasing love shown this grape by American wine drinkers might be explained by both the wine’s affordability and taste. It is easy to find numerous good examples of Argentinean Malbec in the $8-$15 range. As wine critic Jay Miller explains in Parker’s Wine Bargains (2009), “inexpensive labor and land… plus an ideal climate and a good water supply from the Andes make for low production costs” — and lower prices for consumers.

Then there’s the wine itself. Most wines made from Malbec exhibit a deep, lustrous purple/black color. And while French wines made from Malbec tend to be somewhat tannic and distinctly non-fruity, most Argentinean renditions exhibit a plush texture underscored by riper, softer tannins. The wines are usually fruit-forward, as well, and richly flavored with fairly low acidity. This would seem to be a formula for the type of wine many Americans currently crave.

The staff at Northside Wine and Spirits recently blind tasted a group of 18 Malbecs from Argentina. The wines ranged in price from $10 to $25 per bottle. The best examples were indeed rich with dark fruit and smooth tannins. Poor examples exhibited rougher tannins and a rather flat flavor due to excessively low acidity.

The nearly unanimous group favorite was the Don Miguel Gascón 2009 Malbec Reserva ($21.99 per bottle). This wine has a deep, inviting aroma redolent of black currant and dark cherry, with a hint of ginger lurking in the background. The palate is round, soft, and elegant, with a rich flavor reflecting the aroma, and an attractive cedar note creeps into the wine’s long finish. This intensely flavored wine begs to be paired with meat or a meaty texture. Try it with grilled steak, braised ribs, mushroom risotto, or beef empanadas.

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