Thursday, 17 April 2014

World Malbec Day: Celebrating Juicy Purple Grapes

Malbec. Thoughts? If you've not heard of it, where have you been for the last five years? If you've not tasted it, why not?

This varietal has become somewhat of a celebrity in its own right and today is World Malbec Day - a day when Malbec fans, both Old World and New World, unite to celebrate this majestic purple grape variety.

Celebrated since 2011, World Malbec Day might sound a little cheesy, and just another made-up-day-for-the-purposes-of-marketing, but I think Malbec is deserving of this 24 hour spotlight - I hope you'll raise a glass with me and agree.

A thin-skinned grape suited to warmer growing regions and needing more sun than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, Malbec has its place in Bordeaux blends - giving colour, tannin and plum fruit - though is more widely planted in the south-west of France, Argentina and a handful of other regions.

Those familar with the rustic wines of Cahors in south-west France, will know that Malbec must contribute at least 70% of the blend to be labelled Cahors under the appellation controlee regulations. You may also know that Malbec also goes under the guise of Auxerrois in this region (and Cot in the Loire Valley). Those of you who are not familiar with the rustic wines of Cahors have learnt something today! The resulting wines from this area of France are typically very dark purple in colour, with intense aromas of raisins and tobacco and are heavy on tannin as the Tannat grape is also used in the Cahors blend.  As is the food of this area (think cassoulet, roasted duck, river fish and foie gras), the wines are simple and I believe, display the true character of the grape.

One of my favourites from the south-west of France is the Cahors, Chateau de Hauterive, 2011 from the Filhol family and available at The Wine Society for £7.50 a bottle. Supple and fruity, it's delish with a simple, rustic cassoulet.

From a little further south, try the Tesco finest* Vin de Pays d'Oc Malbec from the Languedoc-Roussillon. Rich and ripe with flavours of plums and bramble fruit, it's a nice match for simple beef or lamb dishes and for £7.49 per bottle is a nice price too. I've had this one a number of times, including last night, with simply grilled Merguez (spiced lamb) sausages.

Despite its French roots, Malbec is perhaps now most famous in the Mendoza region of Argentina, where it produces deep-purple coloured, full-bodied wines and is widely celebrated as being the holy grail of food matches for its partnership with a juicy steak. Velvety and exuberant, Argentinian Malbec is juicy, spicy and less tannic than those from France. High in fruit and alcohol, it's hard not to like!

Although the final wines vary in intensity and style depending on the altitude of the vineyard, Malbec is really at home in South America, and it's the wines from this region which really tickle my fancy.

Last year I was lucky enough to enjoy lunch with winemkaer Maxi Ortiz from Trivento - under the massive Concha y Toro umbrella - one of the leading producers for the growth of Argentinian wines in the UK. Quite simply, I was super impressed and I could not fault any of the wines we tried. The Trivento Golden Reserve which was served with 'asado' (slow grilled flank steak) is available online at Tesco Wine by the Case for the equivalent to £15.00 per bottle - it's still one of my favourites. Complex and fruity, with the sweetness of blackberries, sharpness of redcurrants and a subtle smokiness, it's heaven in a glass.

If the Golden Reserve isn't in budget, the Trivento Reserve Malbec is an excellent entry level wine, and currently on offer at just £5.99 per bottle at Tesco, it's a steal for the Easter weekend. Plum and raspberry fruit, with sweet tannins and a velvety finish, it's delicious on its own, or with a spiced thai beef salad (crazy idea, I know, but it works).

It would be easy to name another handful of favourites without reference to the hundreds of tasting notes I write throughout the year, but if you'll excuse me, I've got a glass of Malbec to get to. When you've celebrated too, let us know which Malbecs float your boat. Chin chin!

1 comment:

  1. I'd never heard of Malbec until I started Tim Ferriss' Slow-Carb diet about three years ago. Malbec was the first approved wine on the diet, allowing 1-2 glasses per day, and I've enjoyed exploring it since then :)

    Argentinian Malbecs are my favourite, but you might have just inspired me to try some more French bottles.