Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Malbec World Day - The Rise of a Champion

Published:Thursday | April 16, 2015 | 12:00 AMJason Clarke
Jennifer Sherrier (left) and Heather McKoy share a moment over a glass of Malbec.
Lowel Lawrence (back left, standing) with (from left) Rosi Voordouw, Heather McKoy, Helene, wife of the Argentinian ambassador, Ariel Fernandez, Argentinian ambassador to Jamaica, Jason Clarke and Maggie Plummer. They were all smiles after an evening of enjoying wonderful Malbecs.
Charlene Ashley (left) and Rosi Voordouw (right) checks out a new wine app with Jason Clarke with a bottle of Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec in hand.
A taste of Argentina: (From left) Finca Las Moras Malbec, Finca Las Moras Reserve Malbec, Finca Las Moras Black Label, Trivento Reserve Malbec, Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec, Santa Ana Malbec, Catena Malbec.
The now famed Malbec grapes.
Helene Hagen-Larsen has the full attention of her husband, Ariel Fernandez (centre) and Jason Clarke.
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Once a year, Argentina celebrates the emergence of a champion varietal and one of my personal favourites, the Malbec. The official date for the celebration is April 17, so mark it on your calendars. Tomorrow, countries all over the world will, in some way, pay homage to this champion with a number of global activities all centred around malbecs. It's a shame its not a Jamaican holiday. I certainly would enjoy it.

Globally, Argentina is the largest producer of malbec, although there are smaller quantities grown in other parts of the world. As a wine-producing region, it is red wine country because of its tremendous soils, climate and, not to mention, lots of sun. There are more than 168,000 acres of land dedicated to red wine varietals, and about 60,000 acres of that are dedicated to Malbecs.

 

What is a Malbec?

 

Malbecs could be considered a full-bodied wine described as fruit forward, meaning it has deep, rich aromas of cherry, blackcurrant, plums, and blueberry. When aged in oak, it picks up nuances of vanilla, which makes things heavenly. Malbecs pair well with something I enjoy the most - mushrooms! It is also perfect with dark meat poultry like duck, but I enjoy it most with red meats. There is nothing like a lamb burger and a great malbec to send you off into a state of bliss. As for cheeses, Malbecs seem to be a perfect fit for the funk and stink of blue cheese. I suppose the ultimate match in heaven for any griller is a beef burger with blue cheese.

But why all the fuss and fanfare to have a holiday?

The year was 1853 on the fateful day of April 17 when Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, who later became president, submitted a bill to Argentina's legislature calling for the creation of an agricultural school, similar to our very own CASE. He then sponsored the French professor Miguel Pouget to plant grapes in Mendoza. It was at this time that the emergence of Malbecs was marked in Mendoza (a province of Argentina). Malbecs were fast being considered to be a dying varietal until their resurgence in Mendoza and San Juan in Argentina. Its popularity increased until it reached to the ultimate recognition of winning a number of awards at a French wine competition.

One hundred and twenty-four years later in 1977, we saw the birth of a superstar - filled with whit and fortitude, standing toe to toe with some very well recognised French winemakers - considered to be the experts on winemaking. One could not ignore their global presence any further. It is with this that the Argentine government dedicated this day to Malbecs; to recognise the hard work and dedication to make this varietal stand on its own as a major global competitor.

 

Wine-Club Night

 

Once a month, I get together with a vibrant fun group of fellow wine lovers to taste and discuss wine, and at our most recent meeting, we had the distinct privilege of having Argentinean Ambassador Ariel Fernandez and his wife, Helene, who gave us first-hand insight into Malbecs and sampled some amazing ones in the process.

Trivento has an incredible range of options as Malbecs from Mendoza that caters to both your taste and pocket. The Tribu exhibited typical Malbec flavours and aromas. Where it began to get interesting was with the Reserve. With a more intense nose and on the sweeter side, it has a great velvetlike finish. We ended with the Golden Reserve, which has a more intense purple-red kind of colour with very berrylike aromas that just make you want to break into your happy dance. If you are wondering what distinguishes the Reserve from the Golden Reserve - it would be the length of time they were aged in French oak barrels, which adds depth, character, and charisma. The Reserve is aged for six months while the Golden Reserve is aged for 12 months, and an additional 12 months bottle ageing before it is released. Wine spectators rate these wines at 88 and 91, respectively.

The next wine was from Finca Las Moras, which is from San Juan, which is further north than where Trivento is grown. The first in the flight has a soft, more delicate nose than its Trivento counterpart. Where things started to get interesting were with the Reserve and the Black Label. It has a very different taste profile than its Mendoza counterpart, which only highlighted the significance of the regional differences. The Black Label, although not as prestigiously ranked, (only at 86), was certainly a better value-based option coming in at under $2,000. This deep-coloured Malbec certainly hits you hard on the nose with a beautiful oaky taste on and very noticeable tannins.

Terrazas Alto Del Plata is supple, round and full, with incredible and interesting aromas. It is a typical Malbec that has blackberry-type fruit aromas with a not-so-typical personality, that only one word will do it justice - delicious!

There are a number of Malbecs on the market at varying price points to suit your taste and pocket, so give one a try. I won't be surprised when you begin to fall in love with them.

To celebrate the day, swing by CPJ Deli between noon and 1 p.m. on Friday to chat Malbecs with the Argentinean ambassador and sample a few Malbecs as well. The deli will have specials on Malbecs for the day. If you can't tear yourself away from your desk at lunchtime, then join us at the Wine Shop at 7 p.m.

Let's celebrate World Malbec Day!

- I am not an expert, merely a wine enthusiast sharing my thoughts and experiences. Feel free to share your own experiences at wineenthusiastja@gmail.com.