By Sharon Kapnick
Like many people I know, I’m always eager to have an excuse to celebrate with wine, so I’m looking forward to Malbec World Day on April 17 (when we can also celebrate finishing up and sending in our taxes!).
Argentina also has much to celebrate, for Malbec, its signature red grape, thrives in Mendoza’s high altitudes, dry air, plentiful sun and cool nights. And Argentina’s Malbec has achieved phenomenal growth in the U.S. Annual sales of it have roughly tripled in the past 5 years.
In addition to its good value, Malbec is loved for its lush, fruity, spicy qualities and its soft tannins. In Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine, Mark Oldman writes: “It’s a lesson in vinous voluptuousness.”
Malbec is generally medium to full bodied, with good (medium to high) acidity. Flavors–and it’s a flavorful wine–associated with it are those of black cherries, plums, blackberries, spices and dark chocolate. Its texture is round, rich, silky, smooth, soft and/or velvety. Think of Malbec when you might otherwise choose Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz or Zinfandel. Malbec is best served with (especially) grilled or barbecued beef, game, lamb, pork, veal, sausage, short ribs, steak, venison, goat, cheeseburgers, stews, empanadas, lasagna and other meat-sauced pastas, medium strong cheeses, beans, mushrooms and black olives.
For excellent value and great taste I recommend:
2009 Mapema Malbec (SRP*: $19):
Teamwork is the hallmark of Mariano di Paola and his staff. He’s one of Mendoza’s “Deans of Winemaking” and teaches young winemakers at Don Bosco University.
This Mapema has aromas and flavors of black cherries, black raspberries, blueberries and plums, dark chocolate and mint. It’s spicy and fruity, made from 83-year-old vines, and as good on the second day as the first.
2010 Benmarco Malbec (SRP*: $20):
Susana Balbo has made wine in Australia, California, Chile, France, Italy, South Africa and Spain. In 1999 she added Argentina to the list, crafting wines from her sustainably farmed Mendoza vineyards.
This Benmarco is 90% Malbec and 10% Bonarda (to add complexity and improve balance). It has aromas and flavors of ripe red fruits, currant jam and roasted coffee beans. It’s lush, full bodied, has bright acidity and is made from 25-year-old vines.
Note: I received these wines as samples from the importer.
*Wines can usually be found for less–sometimes considerably less–than the SRP (suggested retail price).