If you consume one liquid this month, make it the national beverage. In fact, let’s get more specific and make it the national grape. (Actually, that’s not quite true, in fact the beloved purple fruit has its origins in France.) But just like all other Argentine immigrants, Malbec has successfully made its home here, and we’ll be alluding to that fact on April 17. All day long.
Malbec World Day is now on its fourth annual celebration, an event that has fermented juice fans around the world paying tribute by sipping considerably more than usual of the extremely drinkable wine.
In honour of Argentina’s most sacred of red grapes, I set up a small, eight-wine tasting of Malbecs exclusively from Mendoza. You can also look north to Cafayate in Salta and south to Río Negro for interesting Malbecs that represent their very different terroirs but given that the home of Malbec ostensibly is Mendoza – and more specifically Luján de Cuyo — that’s what was sampled.
Avid Herald readers will remember that my last tasting didn’t include any Malbecs so we aren’t going back over old tracks…
The usual motley crew of unknowledgeable yet extremely keen wine fans turned up – with the exception of Christina Sunae who runs her eponymous restaurant and has a discerning nose, and Pick Up The Fork who was fresh back from a wine expedition in the promised land – and the aim once again was to keep it cheap and cheerful, finding the preferred Malbec of choice under 55 pesos.
You have to remember, though, that there are hundreds of Malbecs out there, from 20-peso plonk to breathtaking stunners lovingly aged in French oak for 12 months that cost at least 10 times that price, and we would literally be here all month tasting them all. (I am available, however, if that should be an option.) So, we are talking about a teeny tiny selection of wine available in supermarkets.
A blind tasting ensued, that kicked off with a seen palate warmer of Argento 2013. Get the juices flowing. With a mixed bunch of booze from the big names in bodegas such as Zuccardi and Trapiche to lesser known names on the Argentine shop floor — certainly locally, Argento is only just breaking onto the scene although it’s been a fave in the UK for quite some time — the tasting games began.
First off, the Dante Robino Novecento Raíces for 45 pesos, which was in fact the lowest scorer with 32.5 points out of a possible 70. Joost said it was “too sharp,” which we’ll call too much acidity, Patrick thought it “bland” and Sunae “simple.” The general consensus was that it had a great nose, but everyone was let down by the bland mouth, which sadly didn’t live up to expectations.
Next up was Perdriel Terruño 2010 (48 pesos) and this fared rather better to pass the halfway mark with 38 points. Shop Hop observed it had a deeper purple colour — classic Malbec right there — while The Fork picked out sour cherry and pepper in the mouth.
Other 38-pointers were the Benjamin 2012 from Nieto Senetiner (39 pesos and a familiar face at asados) and the Trapiche Origen 2013 (24 pesos). Benjamin was touted “blackberry and nice” by Shop Hop, “spicy” by Sunae and was complimented for its red-purple colour by Patrick, while the Trapiche was called “peppery” twice and highlighted for its “blackberry notes.”
Second place went to the Argento (55 pesos), which snuck in again as wine four, although nobody noticed. It picked up an immense 43 points and was noted for its “layers of flavours”, its “plummy, more complex nose” and “I would like more of this” respectively from Shop Hop, Sunae and Patrick.
But hats off to Bodega Santa Julia from the Zuccardi stable for their Santa Julia 2013, which stormed home as a clear leader with 46 points. Labelled “spicy” by Sunae, “smells like Christmas” by Shop Hop, “easy to drink on its own ” by The Fork and “sensual” by Danny K, it was also considered comforting and balanced.
The queen of Malbecs has been crowned, and she’s available in all good supermarkets for 44 pesos.
Making some noise
Of course the capital of Argentina should be making a fuss over its most successful wine export, and so Wines of Argentina has put together what promises to be a vast and spectacular tasting event in honour of Malbec World Day.
Taking place this Friday, April 4, expect to sample heaps of lovely purple juices from all around the country, grown at the giddy heights of 2,400 metres in Salta to a more discrete 600 metres in altitude from Patagonia.
All your faves in one room at Malbec Making Noise — unmissable!
Honduras and Dorrego,
6pm to 1am
Wining On, Buenos Aires Herald, March 30, 2014