What the heck is Malbec?
Cabernet Sauvignon is on that short list, and so is Merlot. Most wine drinkers have heard of these two, and a few even know that Cab Sauv and Merlot are often blended. Far fewer know that Malbec is another grape variety that can also be blended with Cab and Merlot.
The red wines of Bordeaux are allowed to be a blend of 5 grapes. These 5, known as the carmenet grapes, are the familiar Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as the somewhat lesser known Cabernet Franc. The other two are Petit Verdot and Malbec, which in Bordeaux they call Cot.
Malbec is the chief grape of the wine produced south of Bordeaux in the region of Cahors. In times past this wine was inky dark, a testament to Malbec's traditional role as a blending grape used to add color. As time has passed, the wines of Cahor have become much lighter and more subtle, without losing any of their charm.
Malbec has another place in the world, one so important, that the few of you that have heard of Malbec tend to associate it with this region. The region is in the New World where rules are regularly broken, and tradition rarely gets in the way of innovation. This place is Argentina.
I wish I could relate my first hand experience of Argentina and its wine regions, but I have never had the good fortune to visit. You can be sure it is high on my list, and if the Consul of Argentina is reading this and wants to sponsor a trip, I am pretty sure there is a book or two in it.
Instead, I can only regurgitate what the books say. That Argentina is now the world's 5th or 6th leading wine producer in the world. That this huge producer was all but ignored until a decade ago. That the wines from Argentina merit recognition.
This is where I can share my own impressions. The Argentinean wines I have tried have been primarily bargain styles. They have been light, somewhat simple wines, with a touch of the tar paper taste that I associate with Malbec. Decent, but not worth going out of your way for, is how I would characterize them.
The better wines are rarely found outside of the country, and what is exported is probably not a great representation of what is available. That said, what I have tasted was not bad, and I find the thought that there are even better wines waiting to be discovered to be intriguing.
I regularly issue a rallying call to try new wines, and this week it is focused on the wines of Argentina. If you have any you want to share with us, post a comment. If you are an Argentinean producer or distributor and want me to taste your wines, send me an email. If you are ready to sponsor my research, let me know as soon as possible so I can visit before crush (I hate getting in the way).
Oh by the way, try a Cahors too if you can find one.
Malbec, check it out.