Tag Archives | South America

MALBEC

Intense color. Middleweight. Tar + plums w/ cocoa + flowers around each corner. Hope popularity doesn’t screw it up.

Malbec Description

     Malbec is au currant. It is selling briskly during a recession when most wines are retrenching. It goes great with a big hunka’ red meat, and confers a gaucho image which understandably appeals to salarymen everywhere. Dr. Roger Corder, a British pharmacology researcher, even says Argentine Malbecs are particularly rich in the polyphenols which help protect against artery disease. Good news when you’re having a big hunka’ red meat. And really good Malbec can be had for less than $25. Sign me up!

Malbec Wine Education

     The success of Argentine Malbec on the U.S. market over the last four years is the envy of wine producing regions all over the world. Wines of Argentina says they sold 628,000 cases of Malbec in America in 2005, and 3.15 million cases in 2009. Particularly jealous is the district of Cahors in southwest France, which specializes in Malbec (traditionally called Cot there), and from whence the Argentine vines are reputed to have come.
     Of course commercial success on our shores usually has more to do with pricing and adroit marketing than it has to do with what is in the bottle. I’d never bet against the physical attractiveness of any Argentine winery’s PR staff. And, until last month, exchange rates did give the Argentine wines an enormous price advantage over their European counterparts.
     By way of incentive, Argentina has 50,000 acres of Malbec planted, which is more than California has planted to Zinfandel. France has less than 15,000 acres, and even that has been steadily declining since 1970. Malbec vines are quite sensitive to mildew. Hence the variety seems logically more applicable to arid climates such as Mendoza (in the rain shadow of the Andes), than it would be in the frequent summer rains of southwest France.
     Nevertheless a battle of sorts has been joined, and vintners in both California and Washington State are paying attention. There are only 1,500 acres of Malbec in California. Which explains why in 2008 Malbec grapes sold for $4,550 a ton in Napa Valley ~ almost the same price as Cabernet Sauvignon, and nearly twice as much money per ton as Merlot. In Sonoma Malbec grapes were 15% more expensive than Cab Sauv. And in the Sierra Foothills Malbec is nearly 50% more expensive than any other grape. Supply and demand. You think Wall Street is a casino? Try farming.

Malbec recommendations

     Read this post in its entirety on the Stanford Wine Blog, including specific wine reviews and suggestions.

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Visit Argentina:

Dark hair; blue eyes. Tango. Late night Malbec with grass-fed beef, grilled.

Wine Background

     Argentina is romantic in very many ways. First, they all think they’re Italian. Second, they’re sooo good looking. Third, in the sexual sense of the word, I give you tango, and the factoid that Buenos Aires is the No. 1 lingerie market on the planet. Fourth, in the adventure sense of the word, Argentina sports such wonderful, barely populated, high-elevation frontiers. The highest vineyard in California is about 3,600 ft. The highest in the world, accessed through the airport at Salta in northwest Argentina, is at about 12,000 ft. Sure, that’s high, but the whole area is still in the rain-shadow of the 22,000-ft Andes. That not enough for you? Try the Euro-ski-elegance of Bariloche in Patagonia. Or the steamy Wild West atmosphere of Iguazu Falls on the northern border shared with Paraguay and Brazil.

Argentine Wine Tourism

     Mendoza is the primary wine district of Argentina. It is actually nearer to Santiago, Chile than to Buenos Aires. That’s convenient, re a flight from the US, because Santiago is also a little bit east of Miami and New York. Except in the dead of Winter (our Summer), the bus trip from Santiago to Mendoza is run regularly. It is also inexpensive, comfortable, and affords spectacular views of the Andes, particularly Mount Aconcagua (the biggest).
     Once you arrive in Mendoza, you’re going to need two things: a car; and a copy of the latest edition of …

Read this post in its entirety at the Stanford Wine Blog called Straight from the Vine. Includes recommendations for Uruguay.

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