What’s in My Glass? More Than Malbec

Oh Argentina. You and your tango, your steak, your Chimichurri, and your…Malbec.

What else does this arid, Andes-dominated climate cultivate? Bordeaux blends, Bonarda, and plenty of stories.

I got my fair share of interesting stories a few weeks ago over a tasting at NYC’s Manzanilla with Santiago Achaval, who’s Quimera blends were a great example of what Argentina can do when it mixes Malbec with other international grape varieties (and when business meets pleasure and results in a delicious vinous baby).

Originally influenced by French and Spanish missionaries, Argentinian wine has a much longer history than most would imagine since their export market didn’t open up until the 1970s and 80s. Thanks in large part to the aforementioned wild and mountainous climate, shipping wines had been dangerous and extremely labor intensive for previous generations of winemakers.

Toss in some currency devaluation to make easy to grow and easy to sell Malbec a cheap import for US  wine connosseiurs and voilà–the general Mendoza Malbec glut that, while often delicious, has made it difficult for the grape to compete when it costs more than $12/bottle.

Achaval Ferrer  wines were a refreshing change from the uuber-ripe, magenta-hued Malbecs that typically make their way to NYC shelves from Mendoza.  The Finca Mirador 2010 single-vineyard Malbec was driven by ripe black fruits (Think: plums ready to fall off the tree).  Smooth and luscious on the palate, this was a Malbec that meant business.

The Quimera blends we tried following the Mirador showed the evolution of Achaval-Ferrer, with an echo of the greater changes in the Argentinian wine scene away from Malbec and toward the cultivation of a wide variety of classic grapes (think: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and the like).  TheQuimera 2010 had sensual aromas of smoke, black pepper and currant that gave way to flavors of dark berries and crushed herbs. (read: Delicious).

Comparing the 2010 with Quimera blends from 2006 and 2002, we saw not only tasty development in the juice but also some winemaking perspective. The components of the blend changed with each vintage (though remained Malbec dominant), going from ripe to more mellow but stuck to a black-fruited and lush identity. In essence, these were rich, tasty wines with purpose and power.

So much more than just Malbec.


More Than Malbec, Argentina Uncorked:

Laura Loves: Manzanilla’s selection of tapas and sherry!

Familia Mayol Bonarda and Malbec–Bargain Mendoza wines with bursting with deep berry flavor and spice, priced to pair with everyday eats.

Fun Facts: Auxerrois, Cot and Pressac are three names for Malbec in different regions in France.

The highest-planted Malbec in Argentina is at Catena Zapata in Mendoza at an altitude of about 5,000 feet (1,500m).

Wine is argentina’s “national liquor” (US equivalent: Bourbon Whiskey)

  • August 22, 2013
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