Wednesday, November 07, 2007

How do You Malbec?

Malbec is a big, blue, brawny red wine that is most often associated with the Mendoza wine region of Argentina, even though its roots can be found in Bordeaux, where it was used for centuries as a blending grape. I've had two different kinds of Argentinian Malbec. One is soft, fruity, and plush. The other is surprisingly complex, with herbs, leather, and mineral notes mixed in. No matter what kind of Malbec you prefer, there are bottles out there for under $15 and they are wonderful red wines for fall because they go with such a wide range of soups, stews, and roasts.

Take the 2005 Kaiken Malbec for instance. ($8.99, Costco; available from other merchants for $8-$15) This was a malbec that was soft, lush, and pleasantly easy to drink. There were huge blackberry and blueberry aromas that were so clear and distinct there is no way anyone could take a sniff and say "I can't smell anything but wine." The wine tasted plush, and had a thick, velvety texture. There was a fair amount of oak mixed into the blackberry fruit flavors that dominated this wine. Some might call it a simple fruit bomb, but it was awfully tasty and I thought it represented good QPR.

A completely different Malbec drinking experience was had when domaine547 gave me a sample of the 2006 Bodega Renacer Punto Final Malbec to try ($13.99, domaine547). This was fruity, to be sure--but it was no simple fruit bomb. Similar aromas of blueberry and blackberry were accompanied by notes of leather and anise which made for a combination of smells that was rich, deep, and autumnal. The berries and spice aromas were echoed in the flavors, but the wine had additional notes of herbs (I thought I tasted eucalyptus, but others described it as mint) and a tight mineral twang. I wondered if it was still a bit too young to reach its full potential, but given its complexity the extra $5 was worth it to me and I thought for under $15 this was excellent QPR for a surprisingly complicated wine. Bodega Renacer makes a reserve version of this wine, too, which I've never had. If you've tasted that, please leave a comment and let us know how it compared to the regular, "classic" bottling pictured here.

We drank these wines at dinner party with grilled steaks and all the sides you would get in a steakhouse. The Bodega Renacer Malbec was drained long before the Kaiken Malbec, so I definitely think it was the wine that the six of us preferred. No matter whether you like your reds soft and fruity, or complex and meaty, there is a Malbec for you at a price you can afford. How do you Malbec?


Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Debs,
We also have the reserve but it is not under $20...hence, the sample of the non-reserve! Our basic feeling is that the reserve is just slightly more elegant than the regular bottling, and of course equally as complex. However, it is a 2005 rather than a 2006, and therefore has that age (both bottle and barrel) on it that makes it a different experience. Probably more ready to drink now, but also possibly a little more new world with more vanilla. It's bold too but pretty supple.

Pete said...

This is one of my favorit "go to" everyday reds. It has great flavor and balance for a wine in this price range.