Since April 17th is officially designated World Malbec Day, I’ve decided to begin a roundup of some of the great Argentine Malbecs I’ve tasted over the past few weeks and a series of posts dedicated to this rather spiffing grape variety. Hopefully this will inspire your Malbec choices for the big day itself! (And, just to let you know, if you don’t pick an Argy Malbec I will judge you.)
Last night I went to a cracking event in Devoto (a sleepy neighbourhood in Buenos Aires) which was billed as wine tasting “a cielo abierto” or “under the open skies”. The idea was a kind of wine safari, hopping between wine stands dotted around 2 blocks and drinking more fine wine than is healthy for a school night. No regrets, though. We made a whole bunch of new friends (wine-induced bonding is always the best), one of whom turned out to be a orchestra conductor who moonlights as a sommelier. What a great combo! As for the wines, here are my standout picks in no particular order. Oh, and please forgive the lack of photos, in the mere presence of so much wine it totally slipped my mind!
1. Claroscuro Malbec 2014
I must admit to you my dear winelover readers that it was actually the label that attracted me to this Malbec. The amusing artwork gracing the bottle is entitled “Munch, no grites más!” or “Munch, don’t shout any more!” and it’s the work of Sergio del Giudice. Not really sure if there’s a Munch wine connection, but it makes for a good talking point.
The winery also has a rather arty name; claroscuro is the Spanish word for chiaroscuro, a technique in the art world which uses strong contrasts between light and dark. Chiaroscuro really got going in Italian drawings and paintings during the Renaissance period, but also occurs in painting, cinema, photography. One place you may have spotted it is in Leonardo da Vinci’s 1481 Adoration of the Magi.
So, moving on from my arty digression, this time falling for the sexy label marketing ploy actually led me to a winner. The Claroscuro Malbec is gorgeously soft and oozes decadent ripe plums and blackberries topped off with dark chocolate and oregano. It’s spent 9 months in oak (85% French, 15% American) and comes from a vineyard in Vistaflores in the Tunuyán area of the Uco Valley which sits at 1054 metres or 3428 feet above sea level. This altitude gives fantastically mature fruit flavours and smooth tannins thanks to the extra UV radiation, while retaining decent acidity to provide balance to all that jammy fruit.
It’s an absolutely perfect wine to drink solo, though it could stand up well to some hard cheeses or simple red meat dishes. I loved it so much, I had another. And maybe another… It’s the wine’s fault, you see, it just slides down so easily. Definitely my new favourite when I’m craving a simple, fruity Malbec.
2. Alberto Mas Single Vineyard Malbec 2013
This supple, well-made Malbec comes from boutique winery Bodega Sumun in the Uco Valley, which lies to the south of Mendoza city. This is a wonderful wine for a chilly evening (you lucky Northerners should remember winter is coming in the Southern Hemisphere) with jolly fruit, a bit of spice and a pleasant longish finish. Again, it also features a rather fetching label, which I “forgot” to snap. This time it’s bright yellow (which makes it look like a desperate marketing shout for attention), but again the wine more than justified my predilection for pretty bottles. Maybe this is the start of a new buying strategy…
3. Kaiken Ultra Malbec
This is kind of cheating as I’ve been a Kaiken fan for a while. I tried it again last night in Devoto and was reminded of all the good times we’ve enjoyed together. One of the (again, rather shallow) reasons I love it is winemaker Aurelio Montes actually plays music to the wines as they sit in barrel. Apparently they particularly like Gregorian chants.
This is a wine to decant a little before drinking (30 mins or so should do it) and it’ll reward you with elegant spicy and floral notes over a solid bedrock of rich blackberries and blueberries. Again made from vineyards in the Uco Valley, this claims the big boy prize for altitude – it’s made from 3 vineyards which are at 1400 metres, 1300 metres and 1100 metres above altitude. The result is an honest, rounded wine that’s so pleasant and polite you can take it anywhere. Even to that really annoying winelover friend’s dinner party, the one who only drinks fine French reds. Go on. You know you want to.
So, what will you be drinking for Malbec World Day?