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Verum Malbec 2012
One of the most southerly regions on the globe for fine wine production, Patagonia has experienced extraordinary vineyard expansion since the early 2000s.
Patagonia vineyards occupy the lower foothills of the Andes at 1,000 to 1,600 feet. Here cold air drops at night from incredibly steep elevations—the Andes reach well over 15,000 feet in this zone—a phenomenon that produces drastic diurnal shifts. Cold nights contrasted with hot summer days produce grapes with striking color, full ripeness, great finesse and aromatic intensity.
Favored for its luxury brands, the Patagonia wine growing region of Argentina focuses on a diverse array of international varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillón and Viognier among the white grapes, and Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon for reds.
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.