Category Archives: Chile & Argentina
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.
The focus of my column has always been on Washington wine – and with good reason. Our state produces all the essentials a wine enthusiast could ask for: white wines ranging from crisp, vibrant riesling to full-bodied chardonnay and a wide array of red wines from velvety merlot to big, bold cabernet sauvignon.
But even if all your taste-preference bases are covered by Washington wineries, you’d be foolish not to enjoy wines from other parts of the United States and around the world.
Old World wine-producing countries of France, Spain, and Italy and New World sources such as South Africa, Australia, Chile, and Argentina offer an immense variety of styles to complement and contrast anything from Washington in your on-hand wine supply.
Today I’ll give you several international recommendations I’ve recently enjoyed that make great choices for wineophiles looking to venture outside the Pacific Northwest.
Borgo M 2013 Pinot Grigio (about $12) – This refreshing Italian white has a lightly floral and fruity aroma with plenty of crisp citrus flavors and a lemon-drop finish. It pairs well with manila clams in butter broth and is currently on the menu at Keenan’s at the Pier Restaurant in Bellingham.
Montes Twins 2012 Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon (about $15) – This 50/50 blend is sourced from the Colchagua Valley in Chile. It’s loaded with dark berry, plum, and black currant fruits followed by a layer of even darker bittersweet chocolate and espresso. The soft finish makes it instantly enjoyable and a pleasure to taste.
Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva 2008 (about $19) – This beautiful Spanish red is comprised almost entirely of tempranillo and its opening cherry flavors are accentuated with subtle clove and cinnamon spice. The lingering, complex finish suggests caramel and hazelnut with a dusting of cocoa powder. It pairs nicely with a variety of tapas from octopus to linguiça.
Kaiken 2012 Ultra Malbec (about $24) – Another excellent Chilean malbec, this one is filled with reserved blueberry and blackberry flavors and underscored with an earthy, mineral-like quality and supple tannins. The 14.5-percent alcohol content comes off as slightly hot; a quibble quickly tempered by the dollop of vanilla bean on the finish.
Antonelli San Marco 2010 Montefalco Rosso and Arnaldo-Caprai 2012 Montefalco Rosso (between $19 to $25 each) – Montefalco is a subdivision within central Italy’s Umbria region and known for its big, heady red wines.
Both of these wines have a sangiovese base and 15-percent sagrantino. The Antonelli also blends in cabernet sauvignon and merlot and its cherry, red plum, and toasted oak profile is perfectly balanced with grippy tannins.
The Arnaldo-Caprai is finished with just a bit of merlot. It’s a touch lighter in body, with red currant and berry flavors, firm tannins and a pleasant splash of green tea on the finish.
These days there’s practically a special day for everything. World Smile Day, World Pasta Day, World Left-Handers Day … even World Malbec Day.
Did somebody say Malbec Day? Now that’s a day I’ll celebrate.
World Malbec Day was established a few years by an organization called Wines of Argentina (think Washington Wine Commission as a regional equivalent). April 17 is the day for this year’s events, which include tastings around the globe in recognition of this red wine grape that has really taken off during the last 20 to 25 years.
Malbec has shown promise in Washington State as well, but production has been nowhere near the quantity coming out of Argentina. You’ll find Washington malbec primarily as a component of a red wine blend or, if it is bottled as a single varietal, frequently costing somewhere around $25 to $30 a bottle.
That price range can be a bit steep for some people’s wine budgets, although I’d say that many Washington malbecs are well worth it.
But if you’re trying to be a bit more cost-conscious, look no further than Argentina for solid, reliable malbecs. It’s relatively easy to shop locally and find Argentinian malbecs that fit nicely within the $10 to $20 a bottle category.
Whatever the source, it’s good to know that malbec is an excellent wine to have on hand at the dinner table. It pairs well with most everything beef (prepared in practically any style) and also complements lamb, barbeque pork ribs, and roasted chicken.
Here are some Argentinian malbecs from the country’s critically acclaimed Mendoza region that I’ve tasted as of late for you to consider:
Árido 2011 Malbec (about $12) – This wine jumps out with black olive, pepper and dried herbs along with adequate acidity and somewhat firm tannins. Enjoy it with a juicy, medium-rare pepper-encrusted steak.
Argento 2012 Malbec (about $14) – A sip of this malbec is almost like sinking your teeth into a savory berry pie. Juicy blackberry fruits, with melt-in-your-mouth buttery, caramel and herbal accents on the finish. Fun, but sophisticated, this wine is a pleasure to taste.
Tomero Wines 2011 Malbec (about $19) – Understated boysenberry and blueberry flavors lead off, with a nice meaty texture in the mid-palate and a trailing hint of smokiness. If you like your malbecs more reserved without all the fruit-forwardness, this is the wine for you.
Argento Reserva 2011 Malbec (about $19) – Stunning violet and plum aromas are followed by perfectly balanced black currant, blackberry and black plum flavors. The nicely structured finish glides endlessly on a velvety note of bittersweet chocolate. This malbec is the complete package and one of the best I’ve tasted in quite some time.
Earlier this month I traveled north to the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival and took a break from Northwest wines to attend a seminar that featured a tasting of syrahs from Chile.
A couple of things really stood out during the tasting. First, most of Chile’s grape growing regions are located in temperate, rather than warmer climates. These regions are often influenced by cool ocean breezes as well as a wide variation in daytime and nighttime temperatures. The desirable result: wines that display leaner fruit flavors, have plenty of acidity and are excellent candidates for food pairings.
Second, Chilean winemakers produce a diverse selection of syrahs while still remaining true to the characteristics of the varietal. Quality levels are good, prices are reasonable and affordable, and the range of flavor profiles is certain to please even the most diehard syrah enthusiast.
To give you an idea of what you might expect from Chilean syrah, here are my tasting notes on several of the seminar wines I enjoyed:
Chono 2009 Syrah Reserva (about $15) – Savory and oily, with notes of black olive and a meaty, gamey character. Pair it with barbeque meats for a winning combination.
Montgras 2010 Antu Ninquén Mountain Vineyard Syrah (about $19) – Cherry, black plum, coffee and mocha flavors predominate. The finish is fairly velvety with touches of toasted oak.
Arboleda 2009 Syrah (about $19) – Fragrant dark fruits on the nose, with a mouthful of cherry, blackberry and blueberry flavors. The almost-elegant finish is capped with just the right amount of acidic edginess.
Emiliana Vineyards 2009 Cool Climate Syrah (about $24) – Stunning violet aromatics, juicy plum and black cherry flavors and a soft, round finish. This one’s a bit more plush than expected…and thoroughly enjoyable.
Viña Tabalí 2009 Syrah Reserva Especial (about $24) – Begins with a whiff of blackberry, then moves to lean, bright cherry flavors with chalky tannins and a hint of black pepper. Roast beef and prime rib come to mind as food pairings.
Viña Morandé 2009 Gran Reserva Syrah (about $25) – Aged in American oak, this syrah shows beautiful balance and acidity. Red cherry, bittersweet chocolate, mineral notes and plenty of character.
Viña Maipo 2009 Limited Edition Syrah (about $27) – Comes across a bit like a cabernet with touches of chocolate, berry, plum, and a hint of savoriness. Dense and chewy, but the acidity still shines through.
The Mendoza region of west central Argentina is considered by many to be the country’s premiere wine grape growing area and is home to over 1,000 wineries.
Lately I’ve enjoyed a number of wines from Doña Paula Vineyards, an Argentinean winery that typifies what you can expect from the region – reasonably priced, well-balanced wines with good character and a nice measure of fruit flavors.
Doña Paula currently bottles its wines under two labels; the top-of-the-line Estate label, priced at about $12 to $14 a bottle, which utilizes lower yields and longer aging, and Los Cardos (meaning “the thistle”), a second label that doesn’t compromise on quality despite a slightly lower price of about $9 to $11 a bottle.
Here are my notes on a few of the winery’s current releases:
Los Cardos 2006 Chardonnay – Slightly citrusy to start, with apricot and apple flavors in the mid-palate and a touch of toasted oak on the finish for added depth. For a chardonnay at this price it’s really quite complex.
Los Cardos 2006 Syrah – Packed with plum and black cherry flavors with a scant bit of spice on the finish. Because the wine is still fairly young it’s a bit tannic – a minor quibble that should be easily resolved with additional cellaring time to allow it to become more plush and well rounded. In summary – fine now, but great aging potential.
Doña Paula Estate 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – Lovely aroma of blueberries and violets followed by restrained dark fruit flavors and a finish of sweet, toasted oak. An excellent food wine to pair with beef or barbeque meats.
Doña Paula Estate 2006 Malbec – Generous, mouth watering dark plum and blackberry flavors followed by hints of anise and pepper. Gentle tannins and a silky finish make this an instantly enjoyable red wine.
All of these wines should be available locally at the Community Food Co-Op, Food Pavilion, and Haggen stores. If not in stock, they can be special ordered upon request and on hand for you to enjoy within three to five days.