Marvelous Malbec

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A bottle of the 2014 Misterio Malbec. Supplied

Old wine scribes from Europe have a tendency to separate the world into  distinct halves when it comes to wine; the Old World wines are those from Europe and the Middle East, while those from everywhere else are collectively called New World Wines. 
 
Every New World wine producing nation has one variety or unique blend of varieties that has made their reputation in the world of wine. European countries usually have laws that determine which grape varieties can be planted where, while in New World countries it is usually left to the wineries and the consumer to determine which varieties are best suited to a region or a specific terroir. 
 
This relationship between variety and region is important because different grapes ripen at different times during the season, known as the ripening window, and perform better when certain conditions are met in relation to soil, elevation, temperature, sunlight hours, general weather conditions and when in the season the ripening window opens and closes. The right variety in the right combination of natural conditions can result in a wine nearing perfection, with its own unique qualities attributed to place.  
 
In Argentina there is one variety that has put the country on the world wine map and that variety is Malbec. There are many varieties and wines worthy of consideration when it comes to wine selection from Argentina but Malbec is the one that made the world stand up and take notice and few today would be foolish enough to deny Argentina is making the best Malbec in the world. 
 
Malbec is one of the six red grape varieties permitted in Bordeaux red wine; during the great frost of 1956 in France up to 75 percent of the Malbec vines perished and few vintners elected to replant them. Malbec’s last stronghold in France is the region of Cahors in the southwest where the red wine must contain at least 70 percent of the variety. Malbec is called Auxerrois or Côte Noir in Cahors and the wine is topped up with the varieties Merlot and Tannat.  
 
The Malbec Grape was first introduced to the Mendoza region sometime in the middle of the 19th century, when the provincial governor requested that French agronomist Miguel Pouget bring grapevine cuttings from France to Argentina. Among the vines that Pouget brought were the very first Malbec vines to be planted in the country. 
 
Initially, the variety was not very popular with the Argentinians and much of it was replanted with varieties that produced fruity, easy drinking reds such as Criolla, Cereza and Bonarda from Lombardy, Italy. However, as the Argentine wine market began to open up to the world it was noted that the Malbec grape from Argentina is significantly different to Malbec in France and elsewhere; the bunches are tighter and have smaller berries. This creates fruit that is more concentrated with flavor, more balanced and more complex. It became apparent that the vine had adapted and was ideally suited to the high altitude of the Mendoza region. 
 
As viticulture and winemaking continued to improve, the world markets began to take notice of Argentina’s Malbec and soon a star was born onto the world stage of wine. Today, Argentina is the largest producer of Malbec in the world and is the undisputed king of the variety. 
 
Argentine Malbec wines tend to be rich and dense in both color and flavor with ripe berry fruits, fine tannins and a touch of spice. 
Here are my recent notes from a tasting of the 2014 ‘Misterio’ Malbec, from Finca Flichman of Mendoza, Argentina: 
 
Opaque, squid ink, ox blood and dark plum in color. Big, chunky plum jam, violet and damp earth aromas with raw chocolate, all spice and hints of old oak. The wine is dark and moody. On the palate it’s the taste equivalent of staring into a Nietzschean abyss. Super intensity, lashings of thick, jammy fruitcake flavors, black fruits, plum, raspberry and pan spices with hints of anise, tobacco, clove and pencil shavings all wrapped up in fine, powdery tannins.  

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