What is there to do in Buenos Aires if you don’t Tango? Simple, drink wine. Argentina is renown for its red wines, especially Malbec.
This week I am joined by friend and fellow sommelier, Pilar Alonso. No relation, but we do manage to arowse curiosity when we check into a country inn and ask for two rooms. Pilar does manage to peak their curiosity by playfully asking for rooms with an adjoining door.
Just back from the Mendoza Valley we are lazing away the afternoon in Pilar’s favorite Buenos Aires cafe, Mama Racha. For a city the size of Buenos Aires, there are surprisingly few open-air cafes. Set on the street corner, Mama Racha not only boasts an abundance of outdoor seating, they are also proud of their second story patio. From this vantage point, we have an ideal view for people watching. As we look out on to the bustling tree-lined Plaza Armenia we are able to comfortably enjoy the excellent Malbecs Pilar has selected for our tasting.
Malbec, often spelled “Malbeck,” in Argentina, and is the country’s premier red grape varietal. Malbec once dominated Bordeaux’s Medoc sub-region in the 1800s, however, it has since lost favor with French vignerons. This is most unfortunate because at one time, Malbec was grown in almost every region in France. It fell from favor in part because French vintners primarily used Malbec as a blending wine, and they also saw it as short lived. Not at all an appropriate wine for aging.
This is perfect for Argentina because here, Malbec truly comes into its own. The wines produced have shown to be softer and more lush in structure. They have also proven to age fairly well. Typically, Argentine Malbecs are medium to full-bodied and with plenty of acidity. The wines are pleasantly aromatic, and dominated by flavors of plum, cherry, black cherry, and anise. It is an extremely versatile and food friendly wine.
Our first selection, Luigi Bosca Reserva 2010 very much typifies the Malbecs of the Mendoza Valley. In the glass, the wine is a deep ruby red. On the nose, the bouquet is alive with aromas of blackberry, mocha, tobacco, accented with pepper and spice. The palate is a complex array of flavors of raspberry, olives, and the subtle smokiness of tobacco. The finish is long and complimented by fine-grain tannins. Definitely a wine with great body, structure, and personality. The alcohol content is 14% with a surprising bottle price of $15.
“I started with Luigi Bosca because I know how much enjoy their wines,” Pilar lightly stroked my hand. “Malbecs pair quite nicely with red meat, lamb, game, sausages, stews, and hard cheeses.”
“I find that Malbec can have a very unique pairing profile,” I paused in reflection. “Spicy foods such as Mexican, Cajun, Indian, Thai, and Italian …”
“Thai and Italian?” Pilar broke in.
“I should have said Thai or Italian barbecue dishes.”
For our second selection, Pilar decided on a Cobos Felino Malbec 2012. Respected Californian oenologist Paul Hobbs partnered with two Mendoza locals, Andrea Marchiori and Luis Barraud to create Vina Cobos. The goal was to combine New World innovations and European traditions to produce the world’s best Malbec. This offering is a blend of 97% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Merlot. In the glass, the wine is a rich red in color with deep magenta hues. On the nose, the bouquet is filled with flowery aromas of dark berries, anise, and vanilla. On the palate, the 2012 shows balanced acidity and freshness, and firm tannins. An intense wine that displays pure flavors of raspberries, black plum, with light hints of graphite. As the wine opens up, it unfolds in velvety layers with notes of ginger, white pepper, and chocolate. The finish is balanced with notes of cedar, slate, and mocha. The alcohol content is 14.5% with a bottle price of $25.
“I love the velvety layers of this wine,” Pilar said complacently as she enjoyed her wine. “A very easy wine to drink.
Our next selection, Lagarde Malbec 2009 is another classy wine. In the glass it is a very intense red, highlighted by shades of purple. On the nose, the bouquet is dominated by aromas of ripe fruit and preserves. There are also soft notes of vanilla and chocolate followed by the the faint whisper of tobacco smoke. On the palate, the 2009 truly comes alive with flavors of black plum, blackberries, hints of coffee, and caramel. This well- balanced, full-bodied wine is filled with ripe tannins. The creamy and silky smooth texture also adds to the wine’s sophistication.The finish is persistent with plenty of depth. The alcohol content is 14% with a bottle price of $30.
“A savory wine that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with a meal,” Pilar smiled with pleasure. “It would be difficult not to like this Malbec.”
“Definitely a wine with international appeal.”
Our last selection, Pilar decided on a Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Vina Frederico Villafane 2008. In the glass, the wine is an intensely dark purple that is almost black. It adds to the wine’s allure by creating a sense of mystery. On the nose, the bouquet abounds with aromas of red fruits, black cherry, and candied orange. There were also subtle notes of spice and smoke. On the palate, as the wine opened up, there are flavors of sweet juicy fruit with nuances of mocha cream, chocolate, and almonds. The finish is long and pleasurable. The alcohol content is 14% with a bottle price of $40.
“I especially like the gentle tannins on this wine,” Pilar smiled complacently.
“An exceptional wine that any Malbec aficionado should add to his or her cellar.”
“Will you still be leaving for Uruguay in the morning?” Pilar queried
“I’m afraid so.”
“On this trip, will you be traveling to the wine regions in Peru or Brazil?” Pilar paused for effect. “They are no longer producing just table wines. Some exciting wines are coming out of these two countries.”
“But that my friends, is a different story … ”