Special to the Tribune-Star
Malbec has long been a go-to wine for many people as one of the great value wine deals in the world.
The French blending grape found its way across the Atlantic in the 1860s and settled nicely in Argentina. The Andes Mountain foothills proved an ideal environment for the grape. That Mendoza region now produces most of the great Malbec wines of the world.
The best thing about Malbec is the ability to pick one up at a wine shop for $10 to $18 and enjoy worldclass wine.
World Malbec Day is April 17 and reason to celebrate. Though celebrating Malbec could be any day of the year. It’s fashionable to have Malbec Day, Cabernet Day, or maybe even table grape day, but marketing promotions do help bring attention to the product.
Argentinean producers do not have the market cornered on Malbec; they just produce the best product. Malbec has also found its way into Chile’s Rapel Valley.
The grape thrives in both regions because of a hot and dry summer. The grape requires constant sun to reach its optimal ripeness.
France’s Malbec, with love to the French for making everything difficult, is Cahors. Keep in mind, old-world wine regions designate their wines by geography and not the grape.
The Cahors Malbec is usually a bit lighter in style than the rich Argentine wines. I find the few Chilean Malbecs I’ve tasted similar to Mendoza wines but a little less-pronounced fruit.
Argentina has become a major force in the U.S. wine market. According to WineSur and data from Impact Databank, Argentine Malbec has grown from 625,000 cases in 2005 to 4 million cases last year. That puts Argentina fifth in U.S. imports behind Italy, Australia, France and Chile.
Malbec is thought of as steak wine, much like Cabernet Sauvignon. But Malbec is a great choice when the beef dish isn’t as big as a charred, grilled piece of beast. It’s awesome with barbecue, braised and stewed meats, lamb and more.
Typically, Malbec has rich fruit, smoke and spice on the palate. It’s certainly a full-bodied, dry red wine. But with that said, most Malbecs will have a little smoother finish than a big Cabernet Sauvignon.
Amado Sur Malbec Blend, SRP $15: Big rich and smooth fruit, wonderful balance, acid and tannin structure on the finish. Drinks like a much more expensive wine. This bottle is predominantly Malbec with a big taste of Bonarda and Syrah. It’s a great example from Argentina’s Mendoza region.
Casillero Del Diablo Malbec, SRP $12. This wine is not quite as rich as the Amado Sur but pure Malbec flavors. It’s definitely a food wine but a great bargain.
Other great Malbec options: Durigutti, $15; Maipe, $10; Graffigna Reserve, $12; Obra Prima Reserva, $16.99; Altos, $11; Dona Paula Estate, $15.99. These are just a few I’ve enjoyed in recent years. All are good examples of Malbec and represent nicely balanced wines.
So whether it’s World Malbec Day on April 17, or you just have the urge for something different with your steak, try Malbec!
Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, IN., writes about value wine every other week for 22 Midwestern newspapers. Check out his wine blog at: www.howardhewitt.net.