I’ve often heard Cabernet Sauvignon referred to as The King of Grapes. The high quality production wines along with often expensive prices Cabs command make a strong argument for their regal status. However, in one South American country whose wine industry is the fifth largest producer in the world, the royal Cabernet takes a back seat to the majestic Malbec.
Malbec originated in France and is one of only six grapes allowed in the blend of red French Bordeaux wine. In 1852, Malbec was brought to Argentina by Michel Pouget, a French agronomist who was hired by the Argentine government. Over 150 years later, Malbec has taken center stage as Argentina's flagship variety and the country has the largest Malbec acreage in the world.
Malbecs tend to have an inky, purple coloration and amazingly powerful aromas. Pour a young, ripe Mendoza Malbec and your nose won't need a trip to the inside of the wine glass in order to get a whiff of the juice. Equally as powerful are the flavors often reflecting plum, blackberry or violet. Tannins are soft and depending on the oak aging (length of time and type of oak), the wines can be imparted with smoked meat flavors which make it a perfect wine to pair with grilled meats.
One of the best parts about Argentine Malbec is the price. Due to high volume production and a favorable exchange rate between the US Dollar and Argentine Peso (today $1 Peso equals $0.20 Dollar), an outstanding Malbec can be found at a great rate. It is not uncommon to find a high quality Malbec for only $10-$15 dollars. One of my all-time favorites is Bodega Catena Zapata which is relatively easy to find and retails around $20.
This article is the fourth installment of a six-part series dedicated to Argentina's wine industry (reference Part 1: Exploring Argentina, Part 2: Meet my new friend Torrontés, and Part 3: Wine Tasting in Mendoza).
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