Spring is officially here and that of course means March Madness! But madness of the basketball variety isn’t the only obsession to speak of. From now until April 30th, Experience the Taste of Malbec Madness sweepstakes is underway. You can win a trip for 2 to Mendoza Argentina and tour the Trapiche winery. What better time to celebrate and try out some new wines?
Unimaginable a decade ago, Argentine varietals have enjoyed the fastest growth out of all wine producing countries. The Malbec grape is the single fruit responsible for Argentina’s wine explosion. The good news is that the best way to comprehend the popularity of this grape is to simply taste it in action. Many of the bottles reviewed below retail for less than $10. Thanks to Fredrick Wildman & Sons, I had the distinct honor of tasting a broad range of Malbecs “on the house” from 2 well respected Argentinean wineries. Here are my tasting experiences:
Michel Torino Winery
Brothers Salvador and David founded Michel Torino Winery in 1892 which has now expanded to over 1500 acres of vineyards ranging from 5500-6600 feet above sea level in the Cafayate Valley. Averaging 330-340 sunny days per year with low humidity, irrigation is mandatory since only 3-6 inches of rain fall per year. All growing practices certified organic, fertilizers used in the vineyards are strictly sheep manure, ants are controlled with diatom earth, and weeds are cut with machetes.
CUMA Malbec 2010
It’s only fitting that “Cuma” means pure and clear in Aymara, the language of a tribe that inhabited the region at the time of the Incas. This is reflected in the winery where sulphur levels are lower than conventional wines. The wine bursts into a sweet floral arrangement across the palate. Mellow fruitiness buttressed by the sophistication of tannins. Majorly enlivens pasta sauces and cheeses to tangier crescendo. Tanin zinginess lingers at the fringes of roof and tongue complimented with an overall mellowness.
Accentuating hot pepper and spicy dishes, there’s a hidden complexity behind the ripe fruit….date and raisin along with a trace of nuts and spice on the finish. Guaranteed to do wonders w/ smoked meats. Still enough biting tannins to remind you of this wine’s balance of pleasure and pain….but an overwhelming pleasure here! For dessert, the darker the chocolate, the better. Higher cacao percentages bring out stronger more intense berry flavors.
One bottle was from their Coleccion range showcasing distinct plum aromas with cherry, rosemary, and chocolate notes. Sweet fruit and firm tannins, you’ll get hints of cassis, vanilla, and spicy dark berry on the palate with a long finish. A perfect wine to break out for that Porterhouse or Filet Mignon.
Malbec Don David 2008
The other bottle showcases the flagship red varietal of classic Argentina. Displaying fresh plum on the nose…ripe berries instantly burst onto the palate. Black currants and stingingly sweet blackberry show a strong presence. Cassis shows through along with hints of pine.
Established in 1883, Trapiche is Argentina’s leading producer located in the Andes foothills, Trapiche has over 2500 acres of
vineyards blessed with the most ideal growing conditions…hot days, cool nights, little rainfall, and a glacier runoff fed irrigation system.
Astica Malbec 2010
Made from Argentina’s signature red grape, this wine is made from all hand-picked fruit from the Cuyo region. A vibrant eye-catching label exudes the concept of Astica, the indigenous word for “flower” in Argentina. I paired this with a grilled lamb chop and dilled couscous. I made the pleasant discovery that this wine pairs well with char. Sweet grape at the tip, then spiking along to the back of the tongue…lifting it off the surface where they coalesce. The bouquet is delicately floral…violets or perhaps a fresh tulip. Smooth at the initial pull across the palate, then punchy fruit. Sweet but kickin on the roof of the mouth knocking to break free…flavors continuously blossom in the mouth. Also great with pizza accentuating the flavor combination of acidic tomato sauce and mozzarella tantalizing the palate with each bite. Enjoy the ride!
Falling Star Malbec 2009
Another value-priced wine from the Cuyo region, Falling Star is also made from all hand-picked fruit that’s thermo-macerated. This means it’s fermented at high temperatures over a short period while the remaining half undergoes traditional fermentation and maceration. Malolactic fermentation follows before blending, stabilization, and bottling. The result is easy-drinking red berry flavors and soft tannins. I experienced a deep blackberry bouquet, fiery spice at the front of tongue intensifying toward the back of the palate. With a sweet initial mouth feel, it was
also a playful hard-hitting accompaniment to the cayenne and cinnamon in the rub mix that coated the tipsy-cooker whole chicken I paired this with. No boredom for the mouth guaranteed…my tongue was zapped in every direction. I got initial big spice but swallowed slowly, letting linger on the tongue where punchy blackberry and hints of tobacco reigned.
Made with grapes hand-selected from vineyards in the High Area of the Mendoza River and East Region of Mendoza Province, all fruit is transported in small plastic crates to avoid damage. Tasted this on a dark and windy night…getting down to the single digits and just
chopped out yet another bank of snow left by the plow. I needed a warm comforting wine. Nothing too complex and sophisticated. Initially, this wine was light on the palate…smooth drinking. No spike of flavor from palate to the throat. Upon further tasting, I detected a light plum surfacing in the bouquet right through to the finish. Tart cherry burst followed by a long even mellow plum punctuated by mint and sparkling effervescence across the palate. Unmistakable plum..imagine the sweet juices just under the tart skin of a ripe plum. Rich luminescent red…almost blood red rich with unpretentious flavor. The wine’s subtleties don’t zap you head on but rather reside deeper underneath the surface of initial impression. An enlivening bouquet awakens the nasal passages…largely attributed to the fruity mint spike. Overall, a neutral timbre with no high or low octaves that stand out. This Malbec is a great balance between young wine and complex aged beauty.
Broquel Malbec 2008
You may wonder what’s in a name…and why Trapiche includes the word Broquel in the name of this 2008 Malbec vintage. Broquel in Spanish means “shield” and symbolizes a family’s heritage. In Trapiche’s case, Broquel represents a time honored Malbec production focusing on quality rather than quantity. Experienced winemakers source hand harvested grapes from the best terriors within the entire Andes basin yielding top fruit quality at its best. After an elaborate maceration, the wine is aged in oak barrels for 15 months showcasing a flavorful balance of ripe tannins and a long finish.
I grilled one of the only things that can match Trapiche Malbec…a big juicy hickory smoked porterhouse. Instead of just a wine pairing, it’s really a tasting that equally considers the meat and how this wine complements it. This Broquel brought out the steak’s buttery juices igniting the steak into flames of tangy cheese and sweet butter cream. Forget the side dishes, it’s steak and wine…just like turkey and cranberry sauce…inextricably linked at the hip building a bolder more wholesome flavor experience.
Vina Adolfo Ahumada 2007
I’m saving this bottle priced at $55 for a later tasting. A Wine Advocate review from August 2009 advises people to give it 3-4 years and drink it through 2022. I now have an excuse to go out and buy a mini wine refrigerator to properly store what will be the beginning my modest wine collection. I promise to report back on this vintage several years from now.
photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky