Wine Guy: Argentina and Malbecs
Sven Vogtland is the sommelier for the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, and a 13 year veteran of the craft who has served bottles in the sunny Virgin Islands and in far-away Vietnam. In this column, Vogtland will discuss the latest trends in wine, from what bottles and regions are blowing up to the newest cocktail crazes.
"This week, we're going to talk about Malbec, and specifically Malbecs made in Argentina. It's a grape that has grown in popularity over the past couple of years, primarily because the prices of French wine have gotten so ridiculous that people are looking to places like South America for bargains. Malbec is inexpensive and easy to produce, so even though not every Malbec you find is going to be a good one, there are a lot more good bottles widely available at a good price. It's because of all this that a lot of wine experts believe Malbec will eventually eclipse Merlot in terms of popularity in America.
"Malbec is a very smooth and balanced grape, with a notably great
balance between the alcohol and tannins. Some wines are extremely high
in tannins - they hit you and the jaw and make you pucker. Others have
such high alcohol content that you feel in it your nose and throat.
Malbec, however, goes down like velvet; you don't really get that
obtrusiveness that other wines can produce. It's a very fruity,
flavorful wine, with hints of blackberries, cherries and licorice, and
comes out very dark, with a medium to full body.
its balanced nature, Malbec was traditionally used for blending with
other grapes such as like Cabernet and Bordoux. About 15 years ago an
Argentinian winery by the name of Catena
starting growing Malbec to tone down their Cabernets. They realized
doing this, however, that Malbec was highly drinkable on its own. The
employed a well known, Californian wine consultant by the name of Paul Hobbes,
who teamed up with Catena to produce their first single bottling of
Malbec, which they began to export. From there it really caught on.
soil, particularly in wine making country like Mendoza, is mostly red
clay, which meant Malbec was one of the few grapes that could very
easily grow there. The popular opinion is you can just put it in the
ground and it grows. The soil lends Argentinian Malbecs a very earthy,
mineraley quality that makes them a perfect pair for robust foods.
Argentina is known as beef country, and Malbec fits right in there.
It's perfect with a thick, charred porterhouse, or steak a la plancha.
Ribs, game meats, lamb, mushrooms, and hard cheeses all pair well with
the wine. Typically, I'll serve Malbec with manchego or other sharp,
hard cheeses, and grilled meat, which really pairs well with deep grill
"One mistake people make is that there's a
misconception about Malbecs and other wines from Argentina that they
are all low priced, decent quality wines. But in fact, Argentina has a
number of super premium wines, including Malbec. Many bottles, such as
the very highly rated ones from Vina Cobos, go for
upwards of $200 in back vintages and $100 in current releases. The fact
that there are very high-quality Malbecs available under $20 is just
extra reason to really enjoy this varietal.
"Currently at the
Ritz-Carlton, we serve Paul Hobbes, Catena, and Vina Cobos wines. You
can find a nice selection of Malbecs at 17th Street Wine Store, Total
level Malbecs to watch out for are Vina Cobos' El Felino and some of
Catenas' less expensive bottles, usually priced around $15."
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