Few things, among the simple meals I consider comfort food, provide pure pleasure such as a juicy slab of steak accompanied by a bold and tannic red wine. Particularly if the red wine is a fine textbook Malbec from Argentina. Malbec hails from Bordeaux, where is one of the six grapes permitted to be part of a Red Bordeaux blend. However, after the phylloxera epidemic of 1850 hit the region, Malbec almost disappear and became less popular in Bordeaux. These days Malbec has found a new home in Cahors and all the way to Mendoza, Argentina, where it is now the prominent grape in both regions. Unlike the tried and true Old World Vs New World wine comparison from Cabernet Sauvignon to Syrah to Pinot Noir, Malbec provides one of the few examples where one could draw stark distinctions between wines of the same grape, made in different places. But these disctictions are not derived from terroir alone. While Cahors sticks to tradition producing wines with a more austere flavor profile, brooding fruit, tannins and minerals, Argentina produces more opulent wines, intense, fruit-forward and spicier. A key factor in these differences is the climate. Mendoza enjoys more days of sun and drier growing seasons, resulting in riper grapes than those in Cahors. Now, the proof is in the bottle. This Malbec comes from Bodegas Dominio de La Plata and this 2010 BenMarco is what I consider a textbook Malbec because it represents an unresolved tension between Old and New Word style. Opens up with lush aromas of vanilla and oak, highlithed by hints of earth, black currant and spice. Finishes long focusing on the tamed tannins. The wine is unfiltered and furnished with about 12% of Bonarda. Paired deliciously with a marbly Rib Eye and green beans sautéed with garlic. Bought at Pops Fine Wines in Easton, MA, for $22.00.
I think this wine might be the value of the year so far. At a first taste, the wine opens with lush aromas of black fruit, tobacco and spice. On the palate, the wine is firm, rich and intense, with layers of black cherry, earth and cedar flavors. A wine exhibiting these characteristics in itself is a terrific wine. Now let’s consider this: The price of this wine was $11.00 upon release. I actually bought it for $10.00 at Woodman’s in Madison, WI. This bottle was part of a horizontal taste of international wines from the 2007 vintage that I conducted last Sunday for a group of wine enthusiasts. Among these fabulous wines were Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet, Allegrini Veronese, Joseph Phelps Le Mistral and Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec from Mendoza. The average rating for all the wines was 90 points taken from scores of Magazines ranging from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast to Wine and Spirits. Our wine enthusiast friends could not agree on which wine was the best and for good reasons. Every palate is different, we all know that our genes control the process of degustation and ultimately the selection of wines we like. However, the we all were able to agree in monetary terms. The Columbia Columbia Crest Grand Estates was the clear winner given that it was the only wine under $20.00, let alone it only costs $10.00!
What a better way to combat Monday blues than sipping a Barossa Shiraz from South Australia. As the picture may suggest, I asked Dr. Cheryl Vaughan, biochemist and wine quality assurance extraordinaire, to do the honors of leading the tasting this evening.
What We Tasted Tonight
This 2002 Barossa Shiraz from Wolf Blass is ripe and still vigorous for this vintage, explosive with its blueberry, currant and licorice aromas and flavors, which persist through the finely tuned finished. After about two hours of aeration, the wine started turning lighter and leafier, developing slightly metallic notes. I figured I would do an experiment and open a more recent vintage of the same wine for good measure, adding a system of control and minimize any prevailing biased. Predictably, the newer vintage was rich and spicy with more peppery and licorice notes than the older vintage. The result: The wine is definitely a value wine because while young is packed with fruit and spice. As it ages, it looses in a somewhat harmonious fashion the bulk of the fruit. But, after 12 years, it should be ready to be consumed now that it is at its peak. It should decline in a year or two.
I purchased all vintages of this wine at One Stop Liquors in Pawtucket, RI. The wine staff is not really friendly and they are not very knowledgeable about wine, but they certainly more than make up for their deficiencies with great prices at $16.00 per bottle.
I opened this BV Napa Valley wine last night as a quality assurance exercise since I will be holding a horizontal tasting of 2007 this weekend. Mind you, I paid $16.00 for these bottles at Yankee Spirits in Attleboro, MA. This wine is a solid value. You’ll find plenty of red fruit notes that give way to nuances of cedar and ‘Rutherford dust’. The integrated tannins makes the finish long and extremely pleasant. Initially, I thought I would need a slab of meat to help tame the tannins, but after 60-90 minutes of aeration, this wine is quite food friendly. Think cheeses, charcuterie, tapas and the likes. Cheers!