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Wine Review: Jelu Malbec 2008

May 25th, 2011 No comments
Jelu Malbec 2008

Jelu Malbec 2008 Label

This hearty, Argentinean Malbec is quite robust!  Its delightful nose contains pleasing plum and vanilla scents.  The wine itself has prominent spicy flavors–very characteristic of Argentinean Malbecs–as well as those of dark plums, blackberries, and traces of vanilla.  The finish is quite good, lasting well over 40 seconds, and includes satisfying blackberry notes.  This is a wine sure to delight fans of “spicy” and “peppery” wines.  Often found at $12 a bottle, Malbec enthusiasts will want to try this affordable, solid example of a Bordeaux varietal that falls somewhere in-between a Cab and a Merlot.  Though the label mentions this wine is a good fit for “barbecue meat,” be careful of the barbecue sauce you use.  Sweeter sauces will not compliment this wine, but certain pasta sauces and rich cheeses certainly do. Any dish incorporating cranberries, unsweetened or semisweet, also makes a surprisingly good match, as will cashews.  Of course, this spicy red is quite good on its own, so enjoy a bottle of Jelu Malbec 2008 today!

Jelu Malbec 2008

Jelu Malbec 2008

If you’ve been faithfully trying all the wines we’ve reviewed here recently, you may find yourself with a few partial bottles that need storing! We carry a variety of wine preservation and dispensing systems to suit a range of needs, from the casual drinker (try the Pek Preservo for a single bottle–also a great gift!) to home (or restaurant) wine bar (check out the WineKeeper systems). These systems use argon or nitrogen to prevent oxidization of your open bottles.

Wine Review: Altos Las Hormigas Malbec 2009

April 6th, 2011 No comments

Altos Las Hormigas Malbec 2009

Altos Las Hormigas Malbec 2009

Since my introduction to the Altos Las Hormigas Malbec 2009, it has become a staple in my home.  I’m always prepared with a few extra bottles in the event of unexpected guests. This Argentinean wine has a beautiful nose of berries, dark fruit, spices, and a trace of violet.  It is nicely balanced and smooth, with an exquisite finish that lingers and delights.  With three months of exposure to American and French oak interstaves prior to bottling, this affordable wine has quite a bit of personality.  And like most Argentinean Malbecs, this wine pairs well with grilled burgers, steak, other meat items, as well as with hearty salads and even dark chocolate! 

Be warned, however!  If you are aging this wine, it is recommended that you drink it within five years for optimal flavor.  This is a wine with a short life span.  The suggested serving temperature is 60° F, though I find it opens better at 62° F.  This is one of those instances where a wine cabinet or chiller comes in handy to regulate the exact serving temperature of this and other wines.  If you’re a big Malbec fan, the Altos Las Hormigas Malbec 2009 will not let you down, especially given its affordable price!

Simple Label, Complex Wine: the Cahuin Winemaker’s 2008 Select Red

March 21st, 2011 No comments

Cahuin Winemaker's 2008 Select Red

Never judge a book by its cover, or a wine by its label.  The somewhat plain, non-memorable label on the Cahuin Winemaker’s 2008 Select Red gives credence to this old adage.  This delightful, earthy and rich red consists of a fine blend of Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Malbec.  (The Malbec provides exceptional body, with earthy flavors including blackberries and plums.)  In fact, this wine recently took home the Bronze in San Francisco’s International Wine Competition in 2010.  I personally would rate it 91 or 92 points, though it received an “official” rating of 90 points.

Blends such as this, when successful, are so because the balance of varietals is just right; they work together to bring out the best flavor inherent in each.   This well-balanced red pairs particularly well with salads that include Thousand Island dressing, Russian dressing, and meals that may include pasta with rich sauce, pastrami, corned beef, whole potato fries, and caramelized onions.  Even mushroom burgers make a nice pairing, particularly with a bit of bleu cheese is melted atop the mushroom.  And, naturally, this wine goes well with a good cut of steak, like most wines from Argentina.

If, at first, you’re not as taken with this wine as I, have no fear; this is one of those wines that takes time to open up.  After a good 10 minutes, you’ll experience this wine in all its glory. Decanting it would be an excellent plan; I like this classic decanter by Riedel and it’s currently on sale for less than $40!

While it is not a wine that will call to you from the store shelf with an intriguing label, the Cahuin Winemaker’s 2008 Select Red will certainly dress up one of your meals!

Wine Profile: Malbec

April 27th, 2010 No comments

Meet Malbec!  Malbec grapes are a beautiful deep purple color, and they produce a rich, dark wine.  Malbec is commonly used in combination with other grapes to create Bordeaux-style blends, but can stand alone as an exceptional wine as well.

The Malbec grape is very thin-skinned, delicate, and easily ruined by frost.  It requires more sunlight than most grapes, and ripens mid-season.  Malbec is the principle grape of the French wine region of Cahors.  Malbecs grown here are often highly tannic.  In recent years, however, Malbec has earned a reputation as the grape of Argentina.  Argentina’s Mendoza region has both cool nights and lots of sunshine, producing Malbecs that are softer and more approachable than their French counterparts.

Many wine experts think that Malbec’s move to Argentina was of great benefit to the grape’s development.  Argentine producers have brought Malbec back to an old way of growing, by dramatically cutting yields and focusing instead on quality.  They have put much time and thought into selecting the best planting sites, and developing vineyards that benefit from their individual environments.  As a result, Malbecs, which were once high-priced and sold only domestically, are now available around the world, and many quality bottles can be had in the $15-$30 range.

Malbec is particularly deep in color and intense in flavor.  It can be very plummy or very peppery, and can also have notes of dark berry and leather.  Because of its tannic nature, Malbec is a great candidate for aging.  The tannins will mellow out as the years pass, and the more subtle, richer flavors hidden in the bottle will become apparent.  Many Malbecs have the structure necessary to allow them to age well for a decade or even more.

Argentina, the current most popular producer of Malbec, is also known for its excellent grass-fed steaks.  Grass-fed beef is leaner than its American corn-fed counterpart, and so can be a bit tougher, but it more than compensates with its rich, intense flavor.  It’s no mere accident of geography that great Malbecs and great steaks both come from Argentina–the two complement each other perfectly.  Try Malbec with your next steak.  Its intense, spicy characteristics mean that it can handle the most flavorful steak you want to try.  So this time, skip the filet mignon and go for a flavorful ribeye or t-bone: it and a glass (or three) of Malbec is truly a mouthwatering combination.