Readers are asking for advice about Malbecs

March 18, 2013

I have a great deal to write this week, so let’s jump right into it. How about a 91-point red Bordeaux that can be purchased for $20 and you can start enjoying now. James Suckling gave it 93 points and WS 90. Chateau des Laurets Puisseguin Saint Émilion, 2010 is a Rothschild (Lafite) production. Lovely, dark purple colored, it opens to a bouquet of raspberries, hazelnut, oak-driven vanilla and earth. On the palate, spice, minerals and toast with a juicy mouthfeel and appropriate tannic grip. The finish is long, with more wood notes. Approachable now, but a few years won’t hurt it. It will cellar through 2020. A very nice everyday St. Emilion, but don’t load up; 18,000 cases were produced. Best buy now is the 2006. At 89 points it is buyable under $250/case and your local guy can eat. Best would be a mixed case.

The 93-point RP, 91-point IWC, Tarima Hill Monastrel 2010 is priced under $150/case; $13.95/bottle. Tarima Monastrell is an excellent mourvedre from the Alicante in Spain. Lovely opaque purple with a ruby ring, it opens very complex with aromas of blueberry, pencil lead and dark chocolate with anise, mineral and floral nuance.

On the palate, full bodied with berry and spice flavors. The very long finish shows the tannins, but you are left with pleasant floral and smoky notes. Should cellar for at least 10 years.

I’m not a great fan of Malbec, but many readers ask about them. So I sampled a Concha y Toro Explorador (regulars know I am a huge fan of theirs), a Bodegas Caro Aruma, which is a collaboration of Domaines, Barons de Rothschild and Nicolas Catena, and as a comparison, a highly touted Kaiken Mendoza Corte Malbec-Bonarda-Petit Verdot Red Blend, 2009; rated 91 WE No. 4 Wine Enthusiast Best Buy 2012 for $14.

Malbec is a French varietal wine that has found a home in the Argentine and Chile. It has flourished in a terroir where nighttime temps are low, but the days bring intense heat and lots of sun. In France, in most cases, Malbec, most of which is grown in Cahors, is used, in small percentages, to blend in order to amp up color and tannins. Generally speaking, the juice is deep opaque red with plum flavors and often hints of blackberry, pepper, tobacco and leather.

The Xplorador 2010 - cost $8.  Juicy strawberries and hints of anise spice with good grip, long, clean finish. I rate it 87 plus 2 price points. The Aruma, also a 2010, sells for around $15. Swirl it a bit to get ripe cherry and mocha aromas. This wine offers firm tannins. A little red licorice and earth came through before heading into the long finish. A very pretty wine!

The winemaker at Kaiken is Eduardo Alenparte. Keep your eyes open for his wines. The winery is very rustic. Some writers will be prone to under rate, in my opinion. Time will tell.  The Corte is a blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Bonarda, as the label reads. Very dark ruby, it opens to dark fruit aromas that translate on the palate to blackberry, black currant, cola, spice and toast flavors. This is a very well-balanced wine, slightly tannic, but approachable. I rate Corte 92 and think it is worth the extra few bucks. Bonarda, by the way, is the varietal grape that we name Charbono in USA. It was initially Italian and named Corbeau or Douce noir. Do not confuse with Dolcetto (Dolce Nero).

Another producer of consistently good Malbec is Bodega Norton Malbec Reserva. The 2009 had typical color, opened to cassis, berry and pencil lead aromas.

Dark berry, spice and licorice flavors ride a balanced profile with proper tannic grip. Finishes with a touch of wood. Drink now; 88 points; $14.

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