Archive | April, 2012

Celebrate Malbec World Day: April 17

16 Apr

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).

Bartenura’s Moscatos: Hip, Kosher and Italian–and Ideal for Passover and Easter

4 Apr

While it’s been around since Roman times, when it was called Moscatellum, Moscato today is all the rage. A lovely aromatic grape, overlooked for years but well deserving of its current popularity, Moscato is now the fastest-growing varietal in the U.S. According to a Nielsen report ending Jan. 7, sales of Moscato in 2011 were up 73% in volume and revenue from 2010, a phenomenal 100% increase. Today Moscato is the No. 3 white wine in the U.S., ahead of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

Impact, a Marvin Shanken (of Wine Spectator fame) trade publication, has just deemed Italy’s Bartenura a “Hot Prospect” since it’s nearly doubled in volume since 2008. Its growth is indeed impressive. With a nod to the sweet Manischewitz wines of yesteryear, this year why not turn to Bartenura, which makes three semisweet and sweet Moscatos that are kosher for Passover: Moscato (SRP: $14.99*), Sparkling Moscato (SRP: $17.99*) and a sparkling Moscato Rosé (SRP $17.99*).

According to Shanken, David Herzog, CEO of Royal Wine, which imports Bartenura, estimates that 85% of its Moscato sales are to those unconcerned with its kosher status. The wines are just as appropriate at the Easter celebration as the Passover table.

Bartenura Moscato: Fruity, light, semisweet, serve with fruit and other desserts
Bartenura Sparkling Moscato Piemonte: semisweet, floral, serve with dessert
Bartenura Sparkling Moscato Rosé: fruity, sweet, from Asti, 85% Moscato, 15% Brachetto for color; serve with cheese, fruit and other desserts

*Wines can usually be found for less–sometimes considerably less–than the SRP (suggested retail price).

by Sharon Kapnick