01/23/08 – Malbec from Argentina

By Jesse on January 23, 2008


Ok, first of all, lets get down to brass tacks here.  Spring is fast approaching, and that means we’ve got to start planning more field trips.  The suggestion has been made by Sasha and others — and I think it’s a good one — that we return to Santa Barbara, having not done a trip there since September ’06.  We’ll have an extra year and a half of tasting experience under our belt, and naturally we’ll do a Santa Barbara meeting in preparation for the trip.

For now, I’d like to start us off with two articles.  The first, by Corie Brown of the LA Times, concerns the efforts of one Santa Barbara producer to scale back the alcohol content in his wines.  It’s an interesting examination of this tendency in the last few years to rebel against the notion of the big, huge, fruit-forward California style in favor of a more subtle European approach.  And second, this is the New York Times response to the article.  Check them out… extremely interesting!  And very pertinent for our upcoming trip.  We’ll discuss at the meeting.

This week we’re heading to Argentina to scope out the Malbec scene.  Argentina has been called the “sleeping giant” of the wine world, because even though it produces the fifth most wine of any country, it’s only recently that the world has begun to take notice.  The Argentinians, though, have been appreciating their wine for a long time.  We Americans drink an average of about 1 to 2 gallons of wine per year (I certainly assume the Young Winos drink a bit more than the average).  Argentinians, in comparison, drink 10.4 gallons of wine per year, and as little as a few decades ago, that figure was 26 gallons a year.  That’s a gallon of wine every two weeks!  Inspirational, isn’t it?

Malbec is the red grape that’s fast becoming Argentina’s international calling card.  Here’s an interesting article from Wine Spectator about the pros and cons of Argentinian Malbec in today’s market.  The article also lists several expensive bottles that are supposed to be good, but scroll down a bit and you’ll find mention of a number of bottles available for $15 or less that all scored 85 or better.  And here are some other suggestions:

–The Elsa Malbec comes highly recommended on several sites ($8)
–The 2006 Gascon Malbec was the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s pick of the week earlier this month ($10)
–Finally, Wine Spectator itself listed the 2005 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec “Viña Hormigas Reserva” ($22) as #45 on its annual “Top 100” list.

Between these three options and the five or so in the article, you’ve got a good start on your search.  And please, don’t forget to ask your local wine merchant for help.  One thing the Wine Spectator article says is that there are some bad Argentinean Malbecs out there as well, so beware, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  As always, you can bring $10 if you’re a bit nervous.

This week, for lack of a better host, we’re at my place in the Sh’oaks.  Find yourself a delicious bottle of well-recommended Argentinian Malbec and we’ll see you bright and sober at 9pm.