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Maipe Malbec 2012
"Alberto Antonini (think Altos Las Hormigas) is a consultant at Maipe which in and of itself is an indicator that the winery is focused on quality." - Wine Advocate (Dec 08)
The wines are produced from grapes grown in Agrelo and Luján de Cuyo, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, at an altitude of 3,000 feet above sea level. Agrelo is a cool climate region in Argentina’s premier grape growing area. Each bottle captures the expression of the grape variety, showing its adaptation to the local soils and climate. The vineyard is planted with 18 hectares of Malbec and 32 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon. The soils are deep and textured, which facilitates plant development and confers great body and structure to the wines. Classified among the best areas within the province of Mendoza, year-long sunny and dry conditions permit almost organic viticulture practices. Its outstanding feature is a great daily thermal amplitude, with mild days and cold nights that allow a particular richness of polyphenols that improve the wines’ flavors and color.
Maipe was the Lord of the Winds for the ancient Andean people. Argentineans still invoke his name to clear the skies after a heavy rain or to temper the summer heat. These wines, children of the Sun and the Winds, are produced from grapes grown at the foothills of the Andes Mountains at an altitude of 3,000 feet above sea level. The intense color and aromas capture the expression of the soils that gave them birth.
By far the largest and best-known winemaking province in Argentina, Mendoza is responsible for over 70% of the country’s enological output. Set in the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, the climate is dry and continental, presenting relatively few challenges for viticulturists during the growing season. Mendoza is divided into several distinctive sub-regions, including Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley—two sources of some of the country’s finest wines.
For many wine lovers, Mendoza is practically synonymous with Malbec, originally a Bordelaise variety brought to Argentina by the French in the mid-1800s. Here it found success and renown it never could have achieved in its homeland due to its struggle to ripen fully in finicky climates. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Pinot Noir are all widely planted here as well (and often blended with one another. The best white wines are made from Chardonnay, and there are excellent examples to be found as well from Torrontés, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sémillon.
Known for its big, bold flavors and supple texture, Malbec is most famous for its runaway success in Argentina. However, the variety actually originates in Bordeaux, where it historically contributed color and tannin to blends but was susceptible to viticultural problems. After being nearly wiped out by a devastating frost in 1956, it was never significantly replanted, although it did flourish under the name Côt in nearby Cahors. Malbec was brought to Argentina in 1868 by a French agronomist who saw great potential for the variety in Mendoza’s hot, high-altitude landscape, but did not gain its current reputation as the national grape of Argentina until a surge in popularity in the late 20th century thanks to its easy-going drinkability.
In the Glass
Malbec typically expresses deep flavors of freshly turned earth, black fruits from berries to plums, and licorice, appropriately backed by dense, chewy tannins. In warmer, New World regions, such as Mendoza, it can be quite intense and often needs time to mellow before becoming drinkable. In the Old World, its rusticity shines, with aged examples showing dusty notes of leather and tobacco. The best examples in all regions often possess a beguiling bouquet of violets.
Malbec’s rustic character begs for flavorful dishes, like spicy grilled sausages or the classic cassoulet of France’s Southwest. South American iterations are best enjoyed as they would be in Argentina: with a thick, juicy steak.
If you’re trying to please a crowd, Malbec is generally a safe bet. With its combination of bold flavors and soft tannins, it will appeal to basically anyone who enjoys red wine. Malbec also wins bonus points for affordability, as even the most inexpensive examples are often quite good.