Our recent cold snap has us in the mood for big, heart and body warming red wines. The famous red grape of Argentina did not actually originate there. Malbec is an original Bordeaux varietal from France often used as a blending grape. The Malbec grape has flourished in South America, with its deep, dark inky color, heavy tannins and deep structure. Malbec is also known as “Cot” in the Cahors region of France. Back in the late 1950’s most of the Bordeaux crop of Malbec was killed off in a frost. The French grow Malbec in the Loire Valley, where it is often blended with Cabernet Franc and Gamay. It was once grown in the Burgundy region as well. The Malbec grape is thick skinned, but more difficult to grow than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, less resistant to pests and bad weather. Malbec does well is Washington State, NY’s Long Island, and even some parts of Oregon. California has about 3,000 acres of Malbec planted to vine. Its distinctive plum flavors make it a useful grape for blending in our hemisphere, too. Argentina has been growing Malbec since the late 1900’s and the grape is attracting astute winemakers like Paul Hobbs and Michele Rolland, with over 75,000 acres planted.

Mendoza, Argentina is the top producing area for this grape. The high altitude in the area of the foothills of the Andes has proven to be a fertile home for this rich red wine. There are less pests and the soil is alluvial, mostly loose sand over clay. Mendoza has a great system of irrigation channels, canals and reservoirs sourced from the natural rivers and runoff of the Andes. This provides enough water in the semi- arid dessert to make beautiful grape growing conditions.

We have an entire section of South American wines here at Ed’s, and Malbec available in many price ranges from all over world. Check out some of these wines to keep you warm.

Ben Marco Malbec Grown in the Uco Valley of Mendoza, beautiful deep purple with aromas of ripe red fruits and notes of plum and roasted coffee. This wine gets better with air, allowing the brilliant red currant flavors, bright acidity and an almost savory finish- perfect with a steak! It is made by Argentina’s leading woman winemaker, Susana Balbo. I give it three bones!!

Kaiken Ultra Malbec The Kaiken (Caiquen) is a wild goose that flies between Argentina and Chile over the Andes Mountains. The winery is located in the Uco Valley, the eastern foothills of the Andes, and pays homage to that bird. The wine has spicy floral notes on the nose, with flavors of blueberries and blackberries. The Kaiken Ultra Malbec made Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list this year, three bones!!

Bodega Norton Reserve Malbec This wine made Wine Spectator’s Top 100 last year; the 2014 vintage rated 90 points from the publication. It is 100% Malbec and screams big, ripe black fruit with notes of violet and tobacco on the nose. A sub region of Mendoza, the wine is sourced from vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo. I give it 2 bones!!

Bodega Colome Malbec Autentico This Malbec comes from the highest wine elevation in Argentina, known as Salta. The Hess family of Napa, CA own the winery and vineyards in a small town called Cafayate, located in northwest Argentina. The altitude makes for cool nights and warm days, perfect for grape growing. The wine expresses aromas of red fruit, vanilla and coffee with silky tannins and flavors of cherry, plum and boysenberry. I give it 2 bones!

Amalaya Malbec Blend This wine is a wonderful expression of the terroir of Salta, specifically the Calchaqui Valley. A blend of Malbec, Cabernet, Syrah and Tannat, it is inky with flavors of black tea, and blueberry, aromas of violet, black cherry and coffee. I give it 2 bones!!

A bottle of Malbec from Argentina will take the chill off, pair well with any red meat, or even pizza. Come see us today and check out all the wonderful South American wines, or one of the beautiful expressions of Malbec reviewed above.



 By Brunello Giancola as told to CRBrown