Malbec with Dave Callsen from Main Street Market

Lately, when it comes to wine trends, it seems like everything old is new again. Take ancient grape varietals, plant them in new soils; add Burgundian-style winemaking techniques and the results are often completely new wines that are unique and well received by wine drinkers worldwide. One of the most dramatic examples of this is the surging production of Malbec in Argentina.

While some people actually think that Malbec is unique to Argentina, it is actually an ancient grape varietal, whose cultivation can be traced back nearly 3,000 years to Roman times. Originating in South West France (where it is one of only six red varieties permitted in the Bordeaux appellation), Malbec was historically a major planting there, providing color and fruit to the blend. In the 20th century, Malbec started to lose ground to Merlot and Cabernet Franc due, in part, to its sensitivities to so many different vine ailments including downy mildew and frost.

Today in France, Malbec, (also known as “Côt Noir” or “Auxerrois”) is rarely planted, with the exception of the Cahors appellation in the Loire Valley, where it is required by law to comprise 70% of the grapes used in the wines of that region. Malbec grown in Cahors is typically inky red (or violet), yielding an intense wine with plum-like flavors and very firm tannins. For centuries, these wines were often called “Black Wines,” a reference to both their color and tannic structure. When used outside Cahors, Malbec is most often blended with Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon to create Bourdeaux style blends.

As French plantings and production of Malbec have been decreasing, worldwide production is on the rise, with Argentina leading the way. The grape was first introduced to the region in the mid-19th century along with other grapevine cuttings brought to Argentina from France. Although the vines were true clones of French Malbec, the unique soils and temperatures of the region yielded grapes that produced much fruitier and less tannic wines than their French counterparts.

Typical Argentine Malbec is characterized by its deep color, intense fruity flavors and velvety textures. Some of the best examples are produced in the Mendoza region which lies on the western side of Argentina in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The flavors of a good Malbec should include cherry, plum, raspberry, and occasionally chocolate. When Malbec is aged in oak barrels aromas of vanilla and leather may be present as well.

Trapiche Broquel Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2008

“This Malbec is a very dense deep purple color, with a brooding nose and hints of dusty road. The fruit right up front and on the mid palate give this wine an American style to it, making it a nice summer red wine for pairing foods. The tannins are full and the acidity is rather light. I would suggest this be paired with something lighter on the palate and not overly complex. A nice barbeque or even brats and burgers on the grill would be a great fit. We carry a stuffed pork tenderloin wrapped in Nueskie’s bacon and stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese that would bring out the smokiness in this Malbec.”

~ Dave Callsen, Main Street Market (Egg Harbor)

Appearance: A dense dark purple

Aroma: Deep and full with a dusty road characteristic

Flavors: Dark fruit with a fair amount of tannins

Finishing Notes: The fruit softens to the tannins with just a hint of acidity on the end

Where to Buy: Main Street Market, Econo Foods and Madison Avenue Wine Shop

Where to Try: The Mission Grille, The Cookery, Shoreline Restaurant, Restaurant Saveur, and Waterfront

Information about “Where to Try” and “Where to Buy” these selected wines was provided by the local wine purveyors and vendors. If you happen to also serve or sell these wines, email [email protected].

WINE:30 is written by Karl Bradley and Jody Wuollett. Karl is the general manager and self-proclaimed “sous” sommelier for the Mission Grille. Former restaurant executive and Door County native Jody is happily under-employed as a Mission Grille food server and a member of the local band Northbound.

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