Malbec? More like, Ben-bec! Or, Eu-bec. Or…well you get it. 02/14/11
February can certainly be a hectic month: groundhogs fill the air; schoolchildren everywhere celebrate a day off in commemoration of Cupid’s birthday; and of course, if Abraham Lincoln sees his shadow, John Wilkes Booth will shoot us all with love bullets, ushering in a prosperous Chinese New Year. But even so, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard the big news about some serious international upheaval.
That’s right: Argentina has surpassed Chile as South America’s largest exporter of wine to the United States. I’ve always been a big fan of Carmenere, the lost Bordeaux varietal, but I’m somewhat ashamed to notice I don’t seem to have discussed Malbec yet – the not lost Bordeaux varietal, as well as the signature grape of Argentina. Malbec wines tend to be similar to (but better than) Merlot, with flavors of dark fruit.
The word “Malbec,” of course, with its initial mal, conjures a rather different image: that of some sort of…Bad Beck. Well, fine, I guess I can’t really imagine what that would look li-
In any case, my point is, the name of the grape is misleading, because Malbec is good. VERY good. And the one I’m discussing today, the Esencias de la Tierra 2006 Malbec, from Bodegas Cecchin, is actually the best example of the varietal I’ve tried so far – which at around $15 a bottle, makes it quite a bargain, if you can find it.
This wine poured an inviting, murky crimson, tinting to that familiar, aged brick-red around the rim and containing some visible sediment – which is not at all a bad thing, according to me. A little bit of grit in the glass actually suggests a more authentic wine: one that hasn’t had all the life filtered out of it. And what with this wine’s being organic, that style seems rather appropriate, doesn’t it? Man up already.
On the nose, I detected plum, blackberry, a hint of mint, and an interesting gamey note that was absent from every Malbec I’d tried in the past (but probably shouldn’t have been). My palate was at once awash in flavors of dark fruit and mint, with a peppery finish that I think may have been coriander. The wine had great balance and complexity overall, with a fruity attack evolving to crisp acidity and a nice spicy finish with super-subtle tannins.
I award the Bodegas Cecchin Esencias de la Tierra 2006 Malbec thumbs up. Now granted, I can’t taste the difference between organic and non-organic wines, which forces me to remain open to the distinctive possibility there was a typo on the label; this was indeed pretty orgasmic.
Happy Valentine’s Day!