Reader survey: Raise your hand if you’ve only ever had Malbec from Argentina. Go ahead, don’t be shy. Hmm . . . thought so. It seems that the majority of us, ourselves included, often only think of Malbec as the trademark wine of Argentina. This week’s wines are here to remind us all that great Malbec is made outside of Argentina.
Malbec actually originated in France, and is still one of the main varietals permitted in Bordeaux. It has historically been a very important grape in Bordeaux, often blended in for added color and fruit qualities. But it’s less used in France today than it once was. A frost in 1956 wiped out about 75% of Bordeaux’s plantings, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot have since become more popular. Today, Cahors, a region in southwest France, maintains the most plantings of Malbec along with a few regions in the Loire valley.
Today we’re featuring two Malbecs from two different regions in France that have very different styles. If you like the lush, dark, and chocolatey style of Malbec that Argentina has become well-known for, we strongly urge you to pick up one of these bottles and explore the range of styles that Malbec can produce!
2011 Quastana Côt Lectif – $19.99
We featured another wine by Jérémy Quastana not too long ago. This young Loire Valley up-and-comer is producing some great wine! In case you forgot, Jérémy studied with Oliver Lamasson, who in turn studied with Marcel Lapierre – both renowned producers in the wine world of France. All that tradition and knowledge that has been passed on to Jérémy is showing in his wines and he is leading a new generation of young winemakers. He farms just 2 hectares in Sologne and this wine is only from his second vintage. This Côt (French term for Malbec) from the Loire Valley is from 40-year old vines and is made in a style that’s meant to be drunk young. It has fresh plum aromas and a light cinnamon and spice quality on the nose. The color is deep and dense, almost black, which is very characteristic of Malbec, but not overly heavy. Clocking in at only 10.5% ABV, it’s actually refreshing to taste a Malbec that you can you drink on its own. It has flavors of ripe plum, dried lavender, slate-like minerality, and medium-bodied tannins. It’s fresher and brighter than you might expect!
Perfect Pairing: Tomato and lentil soup
Périé is the Gascon word for ‘rocks’ and refers the white clay and gravel soil from which this wine comes. Mas del Périé is located in Cahors, the region of southwest France, that today is best known for Malbec. Winemaker Fabien Jouves believes in a more subtle approach to Malbec. Many producers in the area use a lot of oak aging, leading to big, extracted, heavy wines. Fabien does not use any oak in his single vineyard bottlings and still maintains beautiful structure and depth in his wines. Les Escures comes from a terraced vineyard on very rocky soil. The color is again deep and dark with aromas of mint, stewed plums, and pepper. This wine is a great example of how structured Malbec can be on its own, with no help from oak. It has a full, mouth-coating texture and flavors of cassis and ripe blackberries, with a long finish, and enough weight to stand up to the heartiest of dishes!
Perfect Pairing: Steak au poivre
Do you prefer them younger or older? Cheeses, that is! Many of you might be familiar with our 6-month aged Manchego, which is a Bi-Rite staple. This month, we were fortunate to get our hands on a few older wheels. Official Manchego cheese can be aged anywhere from six months to up to two years. Made from raw Manchega sheep’s milk, it is a protected cheese under the Spain’s Denominación de Origen regulatory system. The characteristic zig-zag pattern on the rind has roots in the traditional aging in grass baskets that were once used. Today, molds are used that still reflect the same zig-zag tradition. The 12-month has been cared for a bit longer and has a slightly denser texture and nuttier flavor than the 6-month. Come by and ask us for a taste of each to decide which you like better!