Tag Archives: Malbec

What We’re Drinking – Argentinian Malbec

llama_malbec_brand_smLong ago, my Aussie friend, Justine shared her wine buying philosophy – never buy a wine with an animal on the label. Ever.

I took her seriously because when we had this discussion, we were sipping Veuve Clicquot. (Just so you know, Justine, I did not buy this wine, but I did enjoy the heck out of it despite the animal on the label.)

Llama is the name and the animal on the label of Belasco de Baquedano Winery’s Malbec.  Nestled in the foothills of the Andes, this dark colored wine is from 100 year old vines. Its extracted color stained my glass, and that’s impressive. The intriguing aromas of black cherries and minerals had intense juicy cherry and blackberry flavors set off to perfection by the balancing acidity with a lush, smooth texture and hint of licorice on the finish.

Practically all of the world’s Malbec is grown in Argentina. Successful Argentine growers know this French varietal produces inexpensive, delicious Malbecs from the higher elevation vineyards.

Malbec used to be the favored Bordeaux blending grape but not so much anymore. France has less than 15,000 acres now with the bulk of those vineyards in the Sud Ouest – a ways from its roots in Bordeaux. Higher elevation than Bordeaux but nothing compared to Argentina’s high elevations.

There is also a smattering of Malbec in Washington and California but if you total up the world’s Malbec vineyards, Argentina dominates. Malbec just plain loves the climate Mother Nature bestows on the Mendoza Valley. But Mendoza is vast, and that means different climates in the huge area can produce different flavors and aromas to the same grape variety. Some may have the dark fruit notes while a hundred miles away, more minerals and subdued fruit just like its cousin in Bordeaux.

This fine wine sells for around $10 and worth every penny.

The perfect wine recommendation for Cassoulet

While it might have peasant origins, Cassoulet is one of those meals that has seen a resurgence as haute cuisine in recent years. If cooked right it can easily become a family favorite to be enjoyed in front of roaring fire on a cold winter night.

Brynn first tried Cassoulet in Carcassonne, France, a town that has a double walled castle at its center. One of the highly recommended local dishes to try when visiting Carcassonne is Cassoulet. Unlike the vegetarian recipe listed by Ann Vogel, the traditional French dish boasts three different types of meat — often duck confit, pork sausage and pork. Different variations from different regions will substitute mutton or partridge for the duck.

The ingredients are thrown together with white haricot beans in a earthenware bowl with slanting sides specifically designed for baking the dish in a hot oven. But before sticking it in the oven the dish is topped with fried bread cubes and cracklings.

When served the dish in Carcassonne, the Cassoulet was bubbling with the rich juices running over the sides of the bowl. It was amazing.

So now that we’ve talked up the dish, what should you drink with it?

We have two options. One is for Vogel’s vegetarian recipe and the other is for the traditional French recipe with the three meat options.

Because the vegetarian recipe isn’t going to be as heavy as the meat variation, you will want to find a wine that carries similar weight.

Something that can stand up to the beans, but not overpower the leeks and carrots.

For this recipe we recommend an Argentinean Malbec. We chose the Argentinean version because it’s softer on the tannins than a Malbec from France.

The nice thing about Argentinean Malbec is that it almost seems a dime a dozen at the grocery store. You should be able to easily find one for $10 or less. Give Alamos Malbec a try — it runs between $7 and $10.

If you opt to go the traditional route and prepare a meat filled Cassoulet, the wine we would drink with this dish would be a Cahors. Originating in Southwest France, the wine from this region used to be referred to as “the black wine of Cahors” because of its almost blackish hue. Malbec, Merlot and Tannat grapes are all used to make Cahors.

This is a full-bodied wine with high tannin levels. As a result, you should open the bottle an hour or two before serving it to let it breath.

A year ago we had a 2008 Chateau de Gaudou, a French Malbec made in the Cahors style. The nice thing about this wine over seeking out a Cahors? It didn’t break the bank. This wine also runs around $10.