Monday, August 17, 2009

Malbec as the Recession Red Wine?

"New Yorkers Swap Bordeaux for Argentine Malbec," says an article in today's Bloomberg. Good Malbecs from Argentina are priced in th $18 to $22 range, says the article, which goes on to give a nice precis of the Malbec grape in Argentina, and the fact that Argentina has come up to 5th place as an importer to the U.S.

In Argentina, malbec, a grape of French origin, has flourished in the intense sunlight, arid climate and nutrient- poor soil found at the foot of the Andes, says Nicolas Catena, whose family owns Bodega Catena Zapata, a century-old winery in the western province of Mendoza.

“The fruit flavors are dense and yet the tannins are very smooth,” says Catena, 69, over a lunch of sweetbreads, blood sausage and a variety of beef cuts at Piegari Vitello e Dolce, a Buenos Aires restaurant. “That’s a rare combination for a new world wine; that’s why it’s popular in the U.S.”

Actually, it's popular in the U.S. because it's a big, beefy wine comparable to a big California Cabernet, but priced at $12 to $50 (depending on the maker -- Bodega Catena Zapata, for example, sells its spectacularly intense reds for $50 and up), it's half or a third the price of comparable Cabs at a given level of bigness (so to speak).

A trade tasting by Argentinian importers in San Francisco this past Spring was a real eye-opener: a grape that made a bad name for itself in the form of cheap, corrosive Chilean Malbecs ten years ago, these Argentinian reds were all flavorful, complex, and interesting. I recommend you try them if you haven't already. (And if you can get a Zapata, jump at it.)

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