I spent a wonderful evening at Somm Time Wine Bar last week for their Argentina Beyond Wine Tasting Event. As expected, there were plenty of Malbecs to choose from; however, I was particularly taken by the 2014 Calcáreo Granito de Tupungato Malbec. The Calcáreo had the rich berry flavors that one expects from a Malbec, but also a nice minerality and spice that made it really stand out.
There were a number of Cabernet Francs – a grape that is gaining popularity with the growers in Mendoza. I enjoyed the 2016 vintage of both Zuccardi Poligonos and Zorzal Eggo Franco.
One new varietals for me was Bonarda (also known as Douce Noir, Corbeau or Charbono, and not to be confused with Bonarda Piemontese). This is the second most widely planted grape in Argentina, but it hasn’t received as much attention as Malbec. I tasted a couple, but none were remarkable.
For me, the dark horse of the event was Pinot Noir. This grape is no stranger to cool climates, and Patagonia, the southern tip of Argentina, seems to be a perfect region for this grape. Bodega Chacra comes from a long line of Italian winemakers and since settling in Patagonia, they have become a rising star of the Argentinian Pinot Noir scene. Their 2016 Cincuenta y Cinco was savory, elegant, and did not disappoint.
April 17th was designated as Malbec World Day in 2011 by Wines of Argentia to commemorate the day in 1853, when president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento declared his mission to revive and expand the Argentinian wine market. Sarmiento sought the expertise of a French soil expert, Michel Pouget, who brought over a selection of vines, including some Malbec. In France, Malbec was mainly used for blending, because the thin-skinned grapes were highly susceptible to frost, disease and rot. However, in the drier climate of Mendoza, Argentina, the Malbec vines thrived. The warmth in Argentina brought out a more fruit-forward flavor in the wines, in contrast to the strong tannins of the French Malbecs. For many years, the Malbec varietal was only common within Argentina, but in the early 2000s, the popularity started to spread due to its easy drinkability and bargain price. Malbec wine is often described as both juicy, with flavors of cherries, plums, and berries (blackberries/raspberries), and bold, with flavors like smoke/tobabbo, leather, and black pepper. Despite their thin skin, Malbec grapes are a dark purple color, which leads to nearly opaque wine with a deep purple/red color. Malbecs pair well with earthy or smokey foods (BBQ anyone?) or strong flavors, like funky cheese. Happy Malbec World Day!
Producer: Cascada Peak
Region: Mendoza, Argentina
Grape Varieties: Malbec
Pairing: Cheesey Tuesday at Cavatappo Grill. I love this special! Your choice of 5 cheeses and a bottle of wine for $35. This was a nice, standard Malbec whose earthiness and tannins worked well with the cheese, especially the smokey Scamoraza Affumicata.
Overall Rating: ★★★★☆
Legs: slow moving
Scent: Cherry and apricot
Flavors: Earth and dark fruit