Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Warming Up to Malbec

I have to confess that when Argentine Malbec first hit the market, I was not a fan because I tended to dislike malolactic, oak-y, prune juice. But since we are in the dead of winter I drove myself to my local merchant and asked for some recs for substantive reds under $15. In the process I consciously decided to put aside my aversion to Argentine Malbec. Then in my inability to decide between two different Malbecs, I decided to pick up both of them. Due to sheer coincidence I happened to purchase another cheap bottle of Malbec a few days earlier at another local merchant. So I found myself with with three Argentine Malbecs... and here they are:

2007 Urban Uco Malbec (Mendoza)- Medium bodied, red & black fruit, discernable amount of spice & oak, balanced. 90
2008 Dona Paula Estate Malbec (Mendoza) - small amount of earth disappeared quickly after opening, medium bodied, not much fruit, almost no attack, seamless transition from middle to end, longest finish of the three. 89
2008 Gouguenheim Malbec (Mendoza): light bodied, strawberry (fruitier than expected), dry finish, balanced. IMO a nice table wine. 87

The first two Malbecs were purchased at Wine Warehouse for $9.99 each. The third was purchased at New Leaf Market for $7.99. Both the Urban Uco and Dona Paula were very good and I'd recommend both, but personally I preferred the former because it had more complexity and because the Dona Paula did show more oak. But I was pleasantly surprised by all of these wines mostly because none showed any malolactic treatment. If you are like I was--Malbec-phobic--please give any of these a try and shed your Malbec phobia.


  1. I am a little puzzled by your comment on malolatic fermentation. To the best of my knowledge most red wine undergoes ML fermentation. The exception being Nouveau Beaujolais which doesn't have the time for ML to occur. ML is used to control acid levels, and to develop aromas and flavors.

    So if I take a look at your tasting notes these wines all show ML traits. Without the ML they would have been tart wines with no depth, faint aromatics and dull fruits. Maybe a little simplistic but you get the drift. I guess you might be refering to the over use of new oak by some producers?

  2. WD, my malo comment re some Argentine Malbecs is that some Argentine Malbecs that I've tasted have a super-creamy texture. And the way I understand it is that this creamy (buttery in whites) texture is due to malolactic fermentation ("malo" for short"). Per "malolactic fermentation" here: http://www.vinology.com/dictionary/ There may be other techniques used in combination with malo that produces this creamy texture.

  3. Oh dear, my palate needs some training. I haven't noticed creaminess in my Malbec tastings. I went to wkikpedia for more info. Latic acid is what imparts the fuller mouthfeel & buttery taste. Should I be looking for butter in my Malbecs? The one disagreeable trait that I have found in a bunch of Argentinean Malbecs is OAK...way too much OAK.

  4. Zitro,
    Argentine Malbecs do tend to be unpleasantly oaky (as mentioned in the 1st sentence in my post), but the first ones that I tried also had a creamy/round/velvety texture. Cheers!