Thu. Jan 17th, 2019

Argentinian Malbecs: Too Much Quality!

I rather worry that a country known for producing a signature wine can get caught up in its success and be a one-dimensional producer. Is New Zealand so wrapped up in Sauvignon Blanc? Is Argentina strangling itself with Malbec? Is Australia pigeonholed by super rich reds? Is Canada imprisoned by Ice Wine? How do we break out of this? It is up to those who are responsible for making importing decisions. Gutless wonders looking for easy proven money and keeping consumers in ignorance? I suppose if you are a monopoly like the LCBO or a massive European supermarket chain you can do what is most profitable and avoid risk tasking.

The behaviour of the consumer looking for a known wine they prefer also reinforces dead-ends to innovation and new and possibly out of orbit delicious wines.

Argentina is certainly the king of Malbec these days whereas in France its barely surviving. I will enjoy Malbecs and if Argentina is known as a one-horse town the so be it. I am a fan of its Bonarda, Torrontés, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. If these wines are ignored I won’t lose any sleep over it. Although Malbec is easy money!

The Obra Prima Malbec Reserva 2014 has a black cherry colour. On the nose black cherry, black plum, raspberry and milk chocolate notes. On the palate very rich dark fruit. Not a lot of tannins. The wine goes down the hatch smoothly and the tannins start to creep up very slowly but they are very regulated. Aside from the rich black fruit there is a spot of spiciness on the finish. Also some rich black earth. Despite its richness it has a short finish.

At the risk of being repetitive this is ideally suited to an Argentinian roast meat platter and when you get such a platter it is usually more meat than one can eat in a single seating. So sit back and eat slowly and hope the Malbec cuts down the fat!

I am so used to great Malbecs from Argentina I am not bubbling with enthusiasm. Is it possible to be bored with excellence?

Great label full of information. 12 months in New French oak. Although that is not obvious from the taste which is commendable! Also grapes grown at close to 1,000 metres assuring some freshness and avoidance of flabby and jammy wines. Cool nighttime temperatures preserve the acidity of the juice and keep the sugars under control.

(Obra Prima Malbec Reserva 2014, Familia Cassone, Mendoza, Argentina, $19.95, 14%, LCBO # 574517, 750 mL, Set The Bar Rating 92/100).

Speaking of families, we move onto a La Posta Malbec 2017 from “The Pizella Family”. Is there really such a family or are the Catena’s behind a fictious name as the label itself says “created by the 4th generation of vintner Laura Catena”. Catena is a well-known winery in Argentina so I wouldn’t be surprised if this just another “brand” of the omni-potent Catenas?

It has a vibrant black cherry colour. On the nose black cherry, raspberry, pomegranate and some decadent strawberry. On the palate rather cold and calculating. Muted black fruit. Not much of a finish. Smooth and very accessible as a winemaker in the Dão region of Portugal once told me as he quite openly was targeting a mass audience of wine drinkers for certain of his wines. While for more sophisticated wine drinkers he was making an entirely different type of wine.

This La Posta seems to be designed for immediate likeability but if a wine can lack a heart and soul this is an example. It does its job quite well but is there anything unique or memorable about it. I think not. Even its label reminds one of a Hollywood B western film. I really hate to say this but this reminds a wine of manufacture as opposed to passion.

Strangely I sampled this after a very complex and fantastic cod recipe that oozed great love and artistry. This poor Malbec was a victim of artisanal excellence in food! We often talk of the ideal wine with food but this is the first time I have measured a wine after food!

All said and done a light weight Malbec which ordinarily I would mandate a beef dish for. Strangely it is so sedated (Like that Ramone’s song “I Want to be Sedated”) I would say a great match with grilled octopus or a Portuguese cod Bacalhau. Beef would overpower it.

(La Posta Pizzella Malbec 2017, La Posta del Viñatero, Vista Flores Tunuyán, Mendoza, Argentina,            $ 15.95, 13%, 750 mL, LCBO # 166298, Set The Bar Rating 88/100).

We finish off with a Graffinga Vespara Malbec 2017 from the Salta region of Argentina. Black cherry in colour. Black cherry, black currant, cassis, cranberry with some strawberry jam on the nose. On the palate some mild tannins but a very smooth wine and there is strawberry, blueberry and cranberry. I like the fact there are cranberry notes on both the aroma and taste the wine avoids becoming juicy with a slight sour tinge. Short finish.

Great for quaffing as I can’t imagine it offending any palate. For some reason it calls out for grilled sausage or on the vegetarian side putanesca sauce over tagliatelle egg noodles.

No sense in ageing this well made but somewhat uninspiring wine. Immediately accessible!

Could it be over the years I have become accustomed to so many well-made Argentinian Malbec’s I am taking them for granted?

(Graffigna Vesparo Malbec 2017, Valles Calchaquies, Salta, Argentina, Bodegas 7389, Cafayette, Argentina, $18.95, 14%, 750 mL, LCBO # 629790, Set The Bar Rating 90/100).

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