April 17 is World Malbec Day, a celebration of the red wine grape that originated in France and is now grown in vineyards around the world.
The day was chosen to coincide with a reported declaration by the president of Argentina to acquire French vines, including malbec, and plant them in Argentinian soils in 1853.
Quantity-wise, the French version of the grape has been long overtaken by the large number of vineyards now grown in the Mendoza region of Argentina, where malbec is the region’s undisputed king of grapes. Malbec has also become increasingly popular in other wine-producing countries including Chile, Australia, and the United States.
In Washington, malbec only accounted for about two-percent of the state’s red wine grape production in 2014. But in spite of that small overall total percentage, its production here as a single varietal has doubled in just the last four years.
That’s good news to anyone who enjoys a solid, medium-bodied red wine – whether domestic or international – that generally features a good amount of fruit, balanced acidity, supple tannins, and spicy/peppery accents.
Here are several recommendations of Argentinian malbecs that can be found at or ordered through Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants in Bellingham:
Árido 2013 Malbec (about $11) – Nice, understated red cherry and berry fruits lead off, with a bit of an earthy finish and good tannic structure. This should make for a great “everyday” malbec, especially when paired with beef stew, burgers, or meat loaf.
Argento 2013 Malbec (about $11) – Here’s another good, bargain-priced malbec to keep on hand for the dinner table. Red plum flavors predominate with undertones of black olive and just a touch of herbaceousness on the finish.
Vistalba Corte C 2013 Malbec (about $15) – Spicy, brambly blackberry aromas and flavors fill the glass, with additional fruits of black cherry and fig and a slightly oaky finish. It’s blended with 20-percent cabernet sauvignon, which lends a bit of a heady character to top off an otherwise elegant wine. A great value at this price point.
Tomero 2011 Reserva Malbec (about $30) – This malbec displays considerable depth and complexity with raspberry and cherry fruit flavors to begin and then darker touches of anise, coffee, and black currant on the finish. Slightly grippy tannins suggest no harm in cellaring the wine for a few more years.
For malbecs from Washington, I’d suggest any of the current releases from Red Mountain’s Hamilton Cellars or the 2012 vintage from J&J Vintners in Walla Walla. Also, Bellingham’s Dynasty Cellars is planning to release its highly anticipated, first-ever malbec sometime this spring. Only 45 cases were produced and the wine will retail for $30 a bottle.