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Maipe Reserve Malbec 2011
"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.
With vineyards tretching along the eastern side of the Andes Mountains from Patagonia in the south to Salta in the north, Argentina is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic wine producing countries—and most important in South America.
Since the late 20th century vineyard investments, improved winery technology and a commitment to innovation have all contributed to the country’s burgeoning image as a producer of great wines at all price points. The climate here is diverse but generally continental and agreeable, with hot, dry summers and cold snowy winters—a positive, as snow melt from the Andes Mountains is used heavily to irrigate vineyards. Grapes very rarely have any difficulty achieving full ripeness.
Argentina’s famous Mendoza region, responsible for more than 70% of Argentina’s wine production, is further divided into several sub-regions, with Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley most noteworthy. Red wines dominate here, especially Malbec, the country’s star variety, while Chardonnay is the most successful white.
The province of San Juan is best known for blends of Bonarda and Syrah. Torrontés is a specialty of the La Rioja and Salta regions, the latter of which is also responsible for excellent Malbecs grown at very high elevation.
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. After being nearly wiped out by a devastating frost in 1956, it was never significantly replanted, although it continued to flourish under the name Côt in nearby Cahors. A French agronomist who saw great potential for the variety in Mendoza’s hot, high-altitude landscape, brought Malbec to Argentina in 1868. But it did not gain its current reputation as the country's national grape until a surge in popularity in the late 20th century.
In the Glass
Malbec typically expresses deep flavors of blackberry, plum and licorice, appropriately backed by aromas of freshly turned earth and dense, chewy tannins. In warmer, New World regions, such as Mendoza, Malbec will be intensely ripe, and full of fruit and spice. From its homeland in Cahors, its rusticity shines; dusty notes and a beguiling bouquet of violets balance rich, black fruit.
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.