Week 16 – Malbec

Tasting Notes

We tasted:

Malbec Cahors Clos La Coutal £11.90 Nicolas wine shop

Vinalba Reserve Malbec Patagonia 2015 £13.99 Waitrose Cellar

Emma says: “For us there are two Malbecs this week, which marks the first 52 Grapes dispute. I rushed off to buy a Malbec to taste before our island holiday this week, searching out one from its traditional region, Cahors in France; not an easy task.

Then on arriving home I was told it should have been from Argentina. Although I’m convinced it was Andy who gave me that shopping instruction. I’ll be interested to see if he admits to that in his note!

But let’s not dwell on that…I’m excited about this week. First I’m a big fan of Malbec, a good thing given I’ve been a buyer of South American wines for six years.  That also means I’ve been lucky to visit Argentina that many times and to be a judge at the Argentine Wine Awards last year. The problem for me this week is how I’m going to sum up everything I want to say about Malbec within a nice succinct tasting note. So we’re taking up the ASKEMMA slot on our newsletter email with a few more of my top Malbec tips.  Another reason to be excited is it was Malbec World Day this week, hence we’ve matched up our schedule so we can all taste and celebrate that together.

First we have the Cahors, which I thought that was a really nice opportunity re-evaluate Malbec. Argentina with its high sunlight hours and cooling mountain influences brings a very particular rich fruit and fragrant style to this grape. So I was interested to see what Cahors would give in contrast; I have tasted these wines before but with without my 52grapes hat on.

I was pleased to find that the distinct violet perfume of Malbec was present in my Cahors and in an even fresher, more fragrant way than most Argentine Malbec. There is also a spicy dark plum note to it, reminiscent of star anise when I’ve used it to cook a fruit compote. On the palate it is robust in structure which I would expect because Malbec is tannic as a grape and France is that bit cooler than the Argentina. But it isn’t aggressive as I’d feared; some Cahors I’ve tasted are a bit green and tough because the Malbec grape hasn’t had the chance to ripen enough, this one is perfectly ripe. The fruit underlying is beautifully fresh, with crunchy fresh orchard plums, a herbal interior of menthol, black peppercorns and cloves. The oak is more gentle than you feel in the new world Malbec.  I felt this wine had a lot of purity and great depth of flavor which elevated it to have a dash more finesse than I’d expect of a wine bought under £15. So a strong thumbs of up for me. I’m definitely going back for more.

Then we move onto the Vinalba Malbec from Patagonia. I have to mention this winery was set up by a pioneering French couple Diane and Herve who moved to Argentina in the 1980s before anyone knew the region would be a hit. And their wines speak to me of both Argentine boldness and French elegance combined. Vinalba’s main winery is based in Mendoza which is by far the largest wine region. But they have now taking up vineyards in Patagonia the cooler southern region which is a trendy emerging area for cooler climates styles of wine; so I’m hoping for some elegance here as a result. The aroma is everything I’m expecting, Malbec has this lovely parma violet note to it and then you have those ripe plummy underlying fruits. Oak is typically a feature on Argentine reds and here I can get that classic gingery sweet note that tells me it is present. I’d say the palate is where I start to feel something different from a Mendoza style of Malbec. The fruit underlying is dense and plummy but not cooked or heavy, there is also a touch of fresh raspberry to it. Then there is that typical rich texture of a Argentine Malbec which comes from the full but ripe tannins with a hit of oak; altogether providing a mouth filling and gutsy wine. This wine does have a lot of oak in the overtones of mocha and sweet spice but the powerful fruit can handle it. And that is the magic of Malbec from this area which I can honestly say no other region has been able to match yet.

Andy says: “I’m tasting this while on holiday, after just playing beach volleyball. I’m hot, sweaty, and covered in sand.

Yes, we’re so dedicated to the cause (read: poor planning) that we packed a bottle in our case. And of course, I picked up the wrong one from the rack. Apparently I’ve brought ‘the good one’, when I should have brought ‘the other one’. I didn’t know there were two.

I’m not sure Malbec is a wine best enjoyed in 26C heat, but I’m here to give it a damn good go. The first thing I noticed was the colour. It was this bright, clear, intense purple. Even the bubbles that formed from my bad pouring were purple.

On the nose, I get quite a few high notes, and a little bit of spice. I’m interested to see how this develops when we finish the bottle tomorrow. Smooth, velvetty tannins, and a warming feeling on swallowing, but the dominating factor here is the oak of which my unrefined palate thinks there is too much.”

Buying Guide

The grape chose itself this week, as this Tuesday (17th April) is Malbec World Day. This is a grape with a special place in Emma’s heart because she visits Argentina each year to buy wines. So she is going to pick one of her favourite new producers that makes wines in her favourite region called the “Uco Valley”. It’s a special area with some of the best climate conditions. Stroll to the South America/Argentina red section and try to identify a wine with the words Uco Valley and you’ll be tasting something similar to us.

8 thoughts to “Week 16 – Malbec”

  1. Waitrose Blueprint Mendoza Malbec 2017 12.5% 37.5%

    Failed to find the recommended wine region so plumped for Mendoza

    This wine is deep blackcurrant in colour with purple at the rim.

    The nose is fragrantly jammy, rich in fruit and with a hint of smokey, peppery spice.

    On the palate I got stalky flavours of woody fruit.

    The finish is fairly short but has some complexity.

    I usually avoid Malbec with it being a stiffening grape for Bordeaux wines, but have been surprised by some top end examples which were very satisfying.

    This version lived down to expectations but would be fine with meat dishes and cheese.

  2. I tried a Sant Julia Reserva Malbec 2016 from the Uco Valley. Now, I like a nice easy Malbec as much as anyone, but it’s rare that I “taste” one, rather than just swig it back with food. So it was, in a sense, like tasting a new wine.

    In the glass it was vivid purple, clean and had obvious legs. The scent made me think of grape jelly and violets. It had a quite in-your-face fruitiness – fresh strawberries and plums. There was also an obvious oakiness – tobacco, cigars and sweet spice (liquorice I think). I remember back in the Shiraz week there was much chat about Frazzles and I think I might have detected a hint of Frazzle. Is that normal?

    The palate was smooth, medium bodied, dry and tannic. There was an immediate, but not deep, fresh fruitiness. Plums and red berries again. This was definitely a “fruit forward” wine. There wasn’t much finish and it seemed somewhat lacking in depth and complexity. It was good with some grilled meat, but overall I found it fell flat.

  3. Wine – Eggo Malbec, Uco Valley, 2015 (M&S £16)
    Bottle says – Black fruits, minerals, herbs

    This was a weird one. The initial odours of nail-polish remover dominated everything. You could tell there was a nice wine underneath, but it was hard work getting to it, I tried this right after a nero d’avola, and the contrast was immense. The soft, welcoming characteristics of the nero d’avola, gave way to the harsh demanding astringency of the malbec; maybe I should have left some time in-between them.
    The almost eye-watering nail polish smell hinted at the red fruits hidden beneath, waiting to be discovered. On tasting, the a slight tartness dominated, with a herby middle section and a red fruit finish.
    I have to say, this was not one of my favourites so far; it was a bit of a challenge. It went well with a barbecue, but finishing the second half of the bottle on it’s own was a bit more demanding. I would be willing to try a few more variations, just for the sake of comparison.

  4. I am leaving my first reply!! I love a Malbec and have been wine tasting in Mendoza 🙂 I am currently at my friends vineyard in the Hunter Valley. Lets see what I can find tomorrow when they take me on a tour!

  5. I chose an iconic Australian Malbec from my local independant wine shop. Nothing here from Argentina, and the last bottle of Cahors had just been sold. Wendouree Clare Malbec 2012. Expensive at $120.
    I must admit I was not looking forward to this week’s grape variety as I have distant memories of inelegant overripe and oaky examples from many years ago. However this wine should be a good example as it comes from a winery with cult status in South Australia.
    Deep red colour with a hint of purple. The nose is attractive with dark cooked fruits (but not stewed) and a hint of violets. Well it is, after all, related to Cabernet Sauvignon!
    Deep powerful and long fruit carries through on the palate, nothing over-ripe and no discernible oak or tannin. And kept perfectly fresh by balancing acidity. Well done Wendouree!
    Next week, one of my favourite white varieties.

    1. Hi Ian, Really interesting to hear a note on a Clare Valley Malbec. I haven’t tried many of those. But I do love the freshness of wines coming from that slightly cooler area. It seems to give the reds a lovely lifted perfume note which accounts for the violets. I hope I get to try it one day too…

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