Ruca Malen Terroir Series Petit Verdot 2016
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.
Producing full-bodied, rustic and deeply colored reds, Petit Verdot is one of the original Bordeaux varieties. Its bold structure, color and aromatics allow it to make a significant difference in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc—even in modest amounts. While it isn’t planted in Bordeaux in great quantities anymore, it is showing a small revival in well-tended vineyards there. Petit Verdot can also produce phenomenal single-varietal wines in the hotter and drier subregions of Australia, South America, California and Washington State.
In the Glass
Petit Verdot makes an intriguing wine with qualities of blackberry, plum, blueberry or black cherry as well as violets and dried sage. Its thick skins result in a highly structured wine with tannins ranging from smooth to grainy, which take well to oak aging.
Roasted pork or grilled lamb kabobs, as well as barbeque and Mole dishes are wonderful. Hard and salty cheeses such as Pecorino, Manchego or aged cheddar can make fun pairings alongside Petit Verdot.
Petit Verdot finds a happy home also in some regions of Spain and Portugal. It is well regarded in Spain’s Castilla-La Mancha and Catalunya as well as in in Portugal’s Alentejo where it blends well with the regions' indigenous varieties.