Ruca Malen Malbec 2018
Bursting with aromas of ripe black cherries, plums, and violets, followed by subtle notes of vanilla and caramel, this Malbec is jammy, packed with fresh red fruit flavors. A pleasant acidity is followed by a generous, round finish marked by a subtle hint of sweet oak and firm tannins from aging 6 months in 20% French oak barrels and 80% stainless steel tanks, following vinification in stainless steel.
The founders, Jean Pierre Thibaud and Jacques Louis de Montalembert, share familial relations to some of France’s foremost winemaking houses. From their time spent together at Chandon Argentina, Thibaud and Montalembert saw the incredible potential of Mendoza as a winemaking region and endeavored to produce wines that drew from their French heritage while uniquely expressing Mendoza’s incredible terroir. They recruited enologist Pablo Cúneo, who’s intimate knowledge of Argentinean terroirs and winemaking expertise has led him to be one of the most respected winemakers in Mendoza.
Ruca Malen believes that the wines are made in the vineyards; they devote themselves to understanding the terroir. The profound knowledge of the diverse microterroirs along the Andes Mountain Range is evident in every sip. Ruca Malen’s vineyard holdings span the Uco Valley, Tupungato, and Lujan de Cuyo, with the vast majority in the Uco Valley. Planted in 1996 along the base of the Andes in sandy loam, rocky, porous soil, at an altitude of 1000 meters above sea level, the unique microclimate can be characterized as Mediterranean, where warm sunny days are balanced by cool breezy nights that allow the grapes to mature steadily.
Hand-crafted using traditional French winemaking techniques in a modern facility equipped with the latest technology, the goal is to produce elegant, food-friendly wines that express the true identity of each varietal. Ruca Malen boasts a portfolio of high quality wines that accentuate the varietal’s natural characteristics, while reflecting a sense of place, and conveying a level of excellence in craftsmanship.
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, divided into several distinctive sub-regions, including Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley, is the source 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 that it never knew in its homeland where a finicky climate gives mixed results. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir are all widely planted here as well (and sometimes even blended with each other or Malbec). Mendoza's main white varieties include Chardonnay, 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 originated 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.