Selections for August 2016

Let’s give you the dark stuff . . .

2013 MENDEL MALBEC – Mendoza, Argentina

Malbec is certainly known to all of you.  Though technically a Bordeaux variety - and most advocated varietally by France’s Cahors region - many became aware of Malbec’s potent, dark message via the interpretations of Argentina.  Would you have known of it fifteen years ago?  I doubt it. 

Argentine Malbec’s rise to popular acclaim has been rapid; too rapid in some ways.  Recognizing a wine with American crowd appeal and eager to exploit the fad, large production leading to sub-par quality predictably happened.  Latecomers to the wine type are unaware of what $10 Malbec USED to taste like, before the wood chips and flavor extracts arrived in Mendoza.

This wine is certainly not $10, but it remembers the truth of Argentine Malbec.  Fragrant with grimy coffee grounds, fresh asphalt, and reluctant blackberries, your nose tells your mouth, “Your turn!”  The texture is the tell:  A nearly Cahors-like set of tannins supports the ripe fruit, making Mendel anything but the sloppy grocery store type.  This is significant Malbec, built for meat and / or cellaring.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate agrees with a 92 point rating and the remarks:

“The 2013 Malbec is produced with the grapes from an ungrafted vineyard planted in 1928 in Mayor Drummond in Luján de Cuyo at some 980 meters altitude and another one in Perdriel. After hand-sorting the grapes, the wine macerated in 50- and 80-hectoliter tanks for three weeks. It matured in a combination of new, second- and third-use French oak barrels for 12-14 months. You feel the hand of a winemaker in this textbook Malbec. It should go an extra mile in bottle with the freshness of the year. 60,000 bottles produced.”     

Smell the fun . . .

2015 ALLEGRINI – Valpolicella, Verona, Italy

When you announce to your friends that you’ve just opened an Italian wine does one of them dive under the table for cover, another suddenly claim an Italian wine allergy, and the other flee the room shrieking hysterically?  Italian wine can do that to those who have yet to EAT with the wine type.  Meant not as a solo cocktail but as a reciprocating mate for food, some folks just haven’t gotten that yet!     

For those rookies there is northern Italy’s Valpolicella (that’s the name of the wine region near Verona).  Here, the grape varieties Corvina, Rondinella, Oseleta, and other rather un-California types thrive and combine to make a very internationally famous wine called “Amarone”.  Heard of it?  Allegrini and its Veronese neighbors make it, and from the exact same grape varieties they also make THIS.  Amarone sees a different treatment of course, with the grape clusters being dried for several months before crushing and fermenting.  Made more traditionally, “regular” Valpolicella shares the juicy friendliness of its far more expensive counterpart and – frankly - I’d rather drink five bottles of THIS instead of one bottle of the $80 alternative!

If I down-sold Valpolicella’s authenticity by promoting the casual consumer’s attractivity, you purists should return to the conversation.  This wine is authentic and place-correct.  Its fragrant perfume of frantic cherries and sweet meats – plus the endearing citric juiciness - have popular appeal of course, but we “thinking drinkers” are happy to participate: This wine also has the “smarts” of acidic freshness and tannic structure. 

Let THEM happily indulge, cocktail-style.  WE will eat with this!!