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Bottled Up: Escape the cold with a South-of-the-border Malbec
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Bottled Up: Escape the cold with a South-of-the-border Malbec

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It's easy to think wine making in the new world is California’s coasts, Oregon and Washington, but Argentina’s productions of Malbec continues to improve. Whenever I think of drinking Malbec, I think about casual nights around a fire, great conversation and easy-going experiences. The grape that lends itself to an easy drinking varietal has become a favorite among wine communities and is a great example of drinking something different than a go-to Cabernet, Merlot or even Pinot Noir.

The originally French grape, brought to South America, began to take hold in the 1800s when wine making was undergoing a transition from religious wines made by Franciscian monks to wines for tables and regular enjoyment. The Argentinian wine regions are split north to south on the western part of the country nestling adjacent to the Andes mountains. They are broken into the main seven wine producing regions of:

  • Salta
  • Catamarca
  • La Rioja
  • San Juan
  • Mendoza
  • Neuquén
  • Patagonia

Malbec is the country’s chief export wine varietal and is most well-known for being grown in the Mendoza region. Protected by a rainshadow, the region stays very dry and receives only 39 days of rain a year. This sunny and warm locale helps the grapes to ripen and develop pigment in the skin that later gives the Malbec wines its rich color. It is possible for Malbec to over ripen but paired with the proximity to the mountains nighttime, temperatures halt the ripening process and allow the grapes to retain acidity needed for wine making.

Rainshadow is a naturally occurring phenomenon in which a range of mountains prevent harsh coastal rains and winds from reaching inland. Rain-laden clouds move in toward the mountains off the coast from the windward side, the water droplets freeze and fall as snow. As a result the leeward side of the mountains traditionally remain quite dry and receive ample sunshine compared to its counterpart. This phenomenon has historically created fertile conditions for grape growing and is found in regions like the Mendoza region in Argentina, Washington’s Columbia Valley and Central Otago wine making region of New Zealand.

Malbec’s distinctive flavor profile is most commonly accompanied by flavors of robust ripe red plum, blackberry, blueberry (tell-tale sign of Malbec when blind-tasting), and as it ages in barrels picks up flavors of vanilla, sweet tobacco and cocoa. Traditionally, Malbec wines provide full body experiences and moderate in tannin and acidity making it an easy-drinking style.

One of Mendoza’s principle wine producers, Bodega Y Cavas de Weinert was founded in the 1970s utilizing grape vines between 25 and 100 years old. Wine maker Hubert Weber then ages the harvested grapes in European Oak in cellars dating back to the 1890s before release. Known for producing wines that epitomizes the style and elegance of Argentinian wine making, the vineyard produces approximately 65,000 cases of Malbec, Cabernet, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc and several others when growing conditions allow.

Weinert Malbec from Bodega Y Cavas De Weinert (retail: $30-$40), comprised of 100% Malbec grapes, is no exception to the region’s efforts for excellent wine making. Robust and rich in flavor, the wine exhibits dark flavors of plum and blueberry combined with subtle spice flavors from oak aging to offer a balanced and refined Malbec experience. Full bodied, and long finish, this is a wine that is great to enjoy and cellar for years to come. Because of Malbec’s full body qualities it’s important to pair with foods that showcase large flavor profiles in order to match intensity. However, because Malbec has moderate tannin and acidity, it does pair better with leaner meats and bolder flavors such as buffalo, elk and lamb and also pairs delightfully with blue cheese, gorgonzola and many other bold soft cheeses. As you’re cooking, be sure to incorporate strong spices and flavors like sage, rosemary and cumin, for example, as they will not only accentuate the spice flavors in the wine but find balance with the dark fruits showcased in every sip. Be sure to avoid foods with higher fat contents, high acidity, or overly subtle as this wine, when paired correctly is a delicious combination to serve for your guests. Try dishes like these:

• Blue Cheese Buffalo Burgers with Roasted Peppers

• Elk Medallions with Blackberry Sauce

• Roasted Ground Lamb Kebabs on Rosemary Sprig Skewers

As you attempt to escape the cold and snow, try opening a bottle of South-of-the-border Malbec to add a refreshing twist on red wines to pair with your meal. Bold and full of flavor, Malbec wines are easy to drink and suitable for entertaining with a multitude of palates and preferences. The Bodega Y Cavas de Weinert Malbec not only exemplifies the best of the Mendoza region but offers those newer to wine an inside look at what makes the Argentinian wine making region a favorite among enthusiasts.

Carson Bodnarek, a self-proclaimed “cork dork”, is a certificate recipient from the Court of Master Sommeliers, WSET Level II and is currently studying for his certified sommelier exam. Always on the hunt for his next great bottle of wine for his collection, he is an avid jetsetter and devout foodie. After moving to Quad-Cities from Iowa City in 2013, Carson now resides in Bettendorf.

Contact Carson Bodnarek at 563-383-2299 or cbodnarek@qctimes.com.

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Carson Bodnarek, a self-proclaimed “cork dork”, is a certificate recipient from the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently studying for h…

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