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Malbec and Xanadu

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Last time we talked about re-thinking reds, branching out beyond the usual matches to consider some new reds. Well, I found one.

If you’ve heard of Malbec at all, it’s usually one from Argentina. As is the case with most New World wines, European settlers during the 19th century brought their local vines cuttings with them to cultivate in their new land. That explains the wedding of Argentina and Malbec, a grape that had a supporting, not main, role in the Bordeaux region.

But the grape’s true origin is France, where it played a supporting role as a blending grape mingled with Bordeaux mainliners Cabernet and Merlot.

What you may not know is that there are regions in Europe that grow Malbec and have for centuries, as a main varietal. And I’ve been happily surprised to discover one debuting at two Chicago venues recently.

Fleming’s steakhouse downtown featured a 2007 Pigmentum Malbec from Georges Vigouroux —and I fully expected it to be from Argentina’s Mendoza region. Instead, it was from Cahors, a niche French region specializing in Malbec and whose locals call it "Cot." I’d only read about Cot, but its absence in my midst made me wonder if it really existed, like a sort of wine Xanadu—a bright, hopeful splendor of a wine that seems so elusive and not expected to be found.

Malbec is a jewel of a wine, with rich dark fruit and hints of mocha and enough chutzpah to go up against both my filet at Fleming’s and a fantastic flight of rare butters and salts at Juicy, a wine bar at Milwaukee and Huron. (It’s worth checking out Juicy just for this unusual food flight.)

Not sure if two finds makes a trend, but like Xanadu, one can always search for the new and elusive. For comparison, try an Argentine Malbec—I just tried one called Molto Malbec--but any from Mendoza will do.

It'll be a warm escape to Xanadu for a few hours on a snowy Chicago night, post-Thundersnowstorm.

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