Mendoza is a place I have always dreamed of going. A couple of weeks back we had a Wine Up Mondays tasting. A group I run for us to taste, enjoy wine and eat lots of cheese. I typically I enjoy myself too much and the thoughts don’t always make the page. I would like to point out that the group got its name because one night I said “What a great wine up” instead of “line up.” And so it was the School of Wine (previous name) got something much more original, and a lot more appropriate. We cannot take wine too seriously after all. But sometimes, we do feel lightly schooled. 
Malbec Wine Up
The theme choice of Malbec was because I have an upcoming trip to Argentina this week. I am now very excited about it! We only had two french examples and three examples of Malbec from Mendoza, but they were all so different. If you are interested, Wine Folly has an amazing article about the Differences between Malbec in France and Argentina. Our Argentinian hosts Andrea and Giraldo even made empanadas. Giraldo used a special pastry cutter and made them all by hand, claiming his grandmother can do them faster. I would like to confirm that empanadas and steak really are the best food match…
Empanadas and Malbec
Malbec Food Matches
Clos de tu Boeuf La Guerrerie Touraine 2013 ~ Touraine, Loire
A very intriguing blend of Cot* (Malbec) and Gamay Noir, made organically with little sulfur, its one of those left field hipster wines. Slight notes of VA (volatile aromas) usually a fault, can some times add to the ‘lifted’ fruit character and makes it vibrant, lush red fruits, with rustic appeal as the Brett (another fault) comes out to play.
 difference between Malbec from Loire of France versus Cahors from Rhone region. In my experience the Cahors tends to have a rather dusty tannin taste, Loire wines more  bright acidity and finesse. 
Château du Cèdre Malbec 2012 ~ Cahors, Southern France
Containing mostly Malbec, with just 5% Merlot and 5% Tannat, this wine was a striking contrast to the first. Southern French reds always have this kind of dustiness to them. This was very plush and fruit forward, a fleshy palate exasberated I think by the 22 months spent in new oak but still with some spice and minerality on the finish.
Cuatro Surco “Tipo Tenaz” Malbec 2015, ~La Consulto, Mendoza
This commercial Mendoza example, under $20 retail and the difference was its ripeness and simple palate. A take home message is that warmer climate Malbec has more ripe berry, blueberry, vanilla, extracted – grape like taste. Examples like this really demonstrate that character, being round, moorish, ripe flavours. 
Altos las Hormigas Appelation Gualtallary 2013 ~ Vale de Uco, Mendoza
An example called Altos show what high altitude of 1,300 m, limestone soils, and a little age can achieve in a Malbec. It was more complex, with dark fruit, pepper, thyme, olive notes. Excellent ‘backbone’ of acidity, bright red flavours, integrated tannins, great structure and chalky finish from the limestone soils. 
Alma Negra “The Animal” Malbec 2014 ~ Mendoza 
Violets, black berries, sweet plum and present oak interplay to make this great in palate weight. It has more voluptuous palate than the Antos las Hormigas, but this Malbec is big, brooding, with excellent drinkability and everything a Mendoza Malbec should be. 
Malbec Line Up

What affects the taste of Malbec? 

Terroir, you might say. What the hell is it? A widely argued topic but thought to show a “sense of place” in a wine. Governed by climate, soil, altitude, proximity to a body of water, temperature, and so many other factors that when they come together they tend to influence the overall flavour variations within grape varieties (within that country, and the world). Two patterns emerged for me tonight, the different flavour profiles that come up in Malbec often vary depending on production by climate and soil in particular. Wine Folly has a great pic showing warm to cool climate flavours in Malbec due to temperature. I would like to add that you may get similar flavour profile range depending on when you pick your grapes (from less ripe fruit flavours to riper, depending on hang time and sunlight). 
Malbec Flavours
I love this quote about terroir from the producer Château du Cèdre in France: ” soils composed of stony clay and limestone, produce straightforward wines with fine tannins, whereas the more powerful and dense wines come from soils composed of clay, sand and rich in pebbles.” In a nutshell, just like most reds even here in Malbec we see that limestone underpins finesse and minerality, whereas clay fills out the palate. This is the same for many red wines, from Pinot Noir to Syrah. 

Conclusion

On this note, Malbec is a very dark and thick skinned grape, hence it produces wines of intense dark colour and powerful tannins. It appears to be the specific combination of high altitude and very warm climate in Mendoza illustrates why it produces some of the best examples worldwide. The stylistic differences within this region, are probably mostly owed to terroir and winemaking techinque. France on the other hand, tends to make a more elegant style, with less of the black fruit spectrum, more dusty tannins and Old World intrigue. 

Wine Faults

VA or Volatile Aromas, include such compounds such as ethyl acetate (smells like nail polish remover). Smaller quantities can actually add to the other lifted, floral, aromatic notes, adding to its perfume as it did in the first wine. These are more common with low sulfur wines. 
Brettanomyces, or Brett, chemically known it has two strains – 4EP which tends to be all barnyard, old wood smelling, or 4EP has smoky and spicy aromas. All you need to know is we all have different thresholds to smell, and tolerate it as being ‘complexity’ or just downright unpleasant. If you’d like to know more read this.  

What else we learnt tonight?

  • Cot is another word for Malbec. 
  • Non-sulfur wines fall over pretty fast. 
  • Bonarda, an indigenous grape variety to Argentina, is absolutely beautiful 
  • Gualtallary is in the sub-region Vale de Uco of Mendoza (in this case a micro-region) that is poorly fertile, extremely high and with limestone and chalk producing highly mineral rich wines. This article writes about the region excellently.
  • We also learnt that Giraldo makes great empanadas and that they’re delicious. 

Andrea holding Malbec
Thanks to both Andrea and Giraldo for hosting us. Even the girls liked it! Besos x
Malbec Girls