Monday, June 28, 2010

Malbec Monopoly

 My last two posts were about some very affordable reds. Today I’d like to post about a couple wines a bit higher up in price. Good wine, after all, is all about balance … so too should a good wine blog be, don’t you think?

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of tasting the Durigutti Malbec. My friends have been raving about this one for quite some time, so I was excited to finally have a chance at it. I also had a chance to try another Malbec I’ve been curious about recently, the Catena Malbec by Bodega Catena Zapata. They’re both over $12, and they’re both Argintenean Malbecs. And that isn’t all they have in common.

But first, a brief history of the Malbec grape for those of you that don’t know. And many of you might not, because it’s a grape that’s only recently started to gain popularity and become more readily available. Like so many of our staple varietals, Malbec was historically grown in France, particularly in Bordeaux and the surrounding regions. It was one of the six varietals allowed to be in red blends labelled “Bordeaux” (the other five being Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carmenere – this last now being extinct in France yet thriving in Chile). But despite being often included in Bordeaux wines, Malbec seldom contributed to more than 5% of a final blend, often less. It was a supporting grape, but never a star.

Fast forward to the mid-1800s, when Malbec was first planted in Argentina. Fast way forward to the late 1900s when Argentine winemakers finally realized “Holy Moly, we can make some really fantastic wines with this stuff!” Fast way WAY forward to now, when Malbec is the most widely planted red grape in Argentina, and Argentinean Malbec is one of the fastest growing catagories in the wine industry.

I admit, I’m a fan. If you haven’t tried it yet, go out and get some Malbec! It comes big and structured, soft and plush, or anywhere in the middle. Talk to your wineseller to find one that suits your palate (and budget).

My first bottle was the Durigutti Malbec.  At $14.99 this is a mid-range Malbec, and I was kind of expecting a fruit bomb. When I smelled it, and perceived strong aromas of blackcurrant, plum, and strawberry on the nose, I was expecting that even more. I took a sip and got a lot more of that nice black currant on the front. Just as I was preparing myself to be swept by the velvety tannins down a cuddly river of blackberry jam – BAM! Something completely different happened. My tastebuds put a screeching halt to the fruit train and pulled a 180, switching gears over to a dark and winding road of strong espresso, deeply roasted cacao, and bracingly acidic kalamata olives. The tannins were no pushovers either, staunchly standing their ground in a finish that seemed to go on and on and on. Me likey.

Date: 6/19/2010
Wine: Durigutti Malbec
Grapes: Malbec
Vintage: 2008
ABV: 14%
Origin: Mendoza, Argentina
Color: ruby with violet highlights
Nose: black currant, plum, strawberry
Palate: blackcurrant, brambly blackberry, espresso, cacao, heavy olive on finish. Big tannins.
Price: $15

The next bottle I tried was the Catena Malbec by Bodega Catena Zapata. For $19.99, I was expecting rather a lot from this bad boy, especially since the price tag also advertised a 91-point rating from the illustrious Robert Parker. In the glass it was a very dark purple – a good sign. The nose was rather simple of black currant, and tart cherry. But I’ve smelled some deceptively simple noses from some big, earthy, Italian wines before – specifically Montepulcianos and Nero d’Avolas – so my high expectations remained undeterred. This was the right call, because the palate DELIVERED. This wine had very sleek, light tannins, spiralling down the mouth in a tight core of charcoal, tar, and olive, over a bed of red fruit. Honest to goodness TAR! That’s a quality I’m not sure I’ve ever perceived in anything except expensive Australian Shiraz, so way to go Bodega Catena Zapata. If you are a lover of Malbec, a lover of Shiraz, or even just a lover of good, earthy, red wine – you have positively GOT to put this in your face.

Date: 6/25/2010
Wine: Bodega Catena Zapata Catena Malbec
Grapes: Malbec
Vintage: 2007
ABV: 13.5%
Origin: Mendoza, Argentina
Color: deep purple
Nose: black currant, tart cherry
Palate: tar and olive, charcoal, red fruit in background
Price: $20

No comments:

Post a Comment