YLC wine expert Matthias Breitsameter introduces the Mendel Malbec, a wine with both the altitude and the attitude to be a perfect accompaniment to a hearty meat dish – perfect for a March meal!
According to me, Argentina’s wine just gets better and better, especially their reds. In 2011, the country produced about 15,400 million hectolitres and it is today the biggest wine producer in the southern hemisphere before even Australia or Chile.
However, the history of wine-making in Argentina started back in the 15th century, when the vines came to the country from four different routes. The most important ones arrived with Spanish missionaries en route from Chile in 1556 – only two years after the vine was introduced on the other side of the Andes Mountains.
The climate and ecosystem of Argentinian wine is unique; most of it is grown and prepared in Mendoza, a city on the foothills of the Andes mountains. The Incas had already created dams, channels and canals to collect the melting snow water from the mountains for irrigation purposes. The Malbec grape variety (its many synonyms include Cot, Pressac and Auxerrois) makes up the majority of those grown, although Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz have been produced to good effect, as well as some white grapes (Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc).
Altitude gives attitude
Fascinating to a sommelier like myself is the altitude of the vineyards; and the understanding of its importance to the grapes. Nicolas Catena Zapata was the first person to think of planting Malbec grapes at 5,000 feet in 1994 and he discovered that the diurnal temperatures (day and night) gives these grapes a long ripening period. Since then, grapes are grown in Mendoza between 2,500 and 5,000 feet. The higher up the vineyard is located, the colder the night will be and the better the sun’s rays will reach the grapes during the day, leading to a great balance in sugars and a perfect mild acidity.
The Malbec wines are the perfect accompaniment to fillet steak, entrecôte and other grilled beef (for which Argentina is also justifiably famous) together with potatoes and herby vegetables (tomatoes spiced with thyme works a treat). It also works with certain hard cheeses like Comte, Manchego or hard cheese, preferably pasteurized.
Grape Variety: Malbec
Producer: Bodegas Esmeralda
Region: Mendoza, Argentina
Alcohol: 13,5% ABV
Aging: American and French Oak for 6-9 Month
Importer: Vinunic AB
Price: 71 SEK
Altitude: 50% from about 600 metres and the rest from above 1,000 metres
Tasting Note: A deep red colour reminiscent of ripe plums with good depth. A spicy smell, balanced with plums and cherries together with some vanilla tones. Sharp acidity with a fresh mouth-feel and long finish. The tannins are quite harsh but are well-balanced with fruits and berries like cherries, blackcurrants and spices.
A good wine for a nice meal and excellent value for money!
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Featured Image: longhorndave/Flickr (file)