Celebrate World Malbec Day April 17

By HOLLY ENDERSBY

Thanks to President Domingo Samiento of Argentina, Malbec wine is here to stay. But in 1853, when President Samiento asked a French botanist to select grapes from the Old World to grow in Argentina neither men knew bringing the Malbec grape would help save that variety.

A decade later, France was hammered by a Phylloxera (an insect related to aphids that feeds on grape plant roots) outbreak that attacked grapes in the Rhone region where most Malbec grew. The infestation wiped out 70 percent of the grapes while those in Argentina continued to flourish.

Ninety years later, in 1956, the French Malbec vines were destroyed again by a freeze, leaving the world Malbec stage to Argentina.

Today, World Malbec Day will be April 17th, and we’re here to help you find some excellent wines to enjoy.

Malbec grapes like high altitudes and dry climates, with warm days and significantly cooler nights. Their flavors reflect the regions where they grow, which means one Malbec may taste very different from another.

Grapes grown in cooler microclimates may have a more pronounced black cherry or raspberry taste while those grown in slightly warmer climes will lean toward black plum or blackberry.  Most will have a black pepper spice to them.

I asked Eric Hovland, owner of Bistro 45 in McCall, for two wine recommendations. Without hesitation, suggested I try the 2015 Durigutti Malbec Classico at a reasonable $14.99.  Brothers Hector and Pablo Durigutti of Mendoza, Argentina are the winemakers behind this luscious wine. My first words after the initial taste were, “Oh, my!”

This is one of the most delicious wines I have ever had. The Durigutti Malbec is a smooth wine, redolent of dark fruit—think black cherry—with a deep structure and power that simply fills your mouth with flavor.

The brothers use native yeast fermentation, age the wine for 12 months in new American oak, and bottle it unrefined and unfiltered. You can’t go wrong buying this wine, and it is splendid with robust red meats, sharp cheeses, and red-sauced Italian offerings.

Even though the Mascota Vineyards of Mendoza produce a $14.99 Malbec that is aged 12 months in American and French oak as well, but nothing else is similar to the Durigutti. This wine is thinner, not as robust or mouth-full, with almost a “jammy” flavor to it: more a mix of fruits rather than one specific one. The 2015 we tasted would be good on a hot summer day, despite it being a red. It has a scrumptious aroma that just begs for light foods, a gentle breeze, and a hammock.

The second recommendation from Eric Hovland was a winner. You will never go wrong selecting the 2016 Padrillo Malbec from Ernesto Catena of Mendoza, Argentina. This wine has a full-mouth feel that is also amazingly smooth and redolent of deep, dark black cherry with touches of blackberry and a tiny bit of zing at the finish.

This Malbec has a lower alcohol content—12.5 percent—which all four of my tasters enjoyed. I find that a higher alcohol content can actually detract from a wine’s overall character.

We drank this wine with a rich elk-barley soup with rustic bread that was a perfect pairing. At $17.99, this is one of the more expensive wines we tried, but everyone agreed it was one we would gladly buy again. In fact, if you can only buy one Malbec, this is one to grab.

And for you Costco fans, Kirkland has some excellent Malbec wines at very reasonable prices. One I liked in particular was the 2014 Malbec. It was robust, but not astringent, with a smooth texture and a great peppery finish that lingered on the tongue.

In fact, I love sleuthing for wine bargains at Costco, especially among its Signature wines, which can occasionally be found under $20. Just be sure that you allow any Malbec you choose to breathe for 20 or minutes before pouring, to fully appreciate this wonderful wine.

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