#1 With a Bullet

Bottle #7 of Malbec, the best Malbec ever.  Only 6 left.  No longer on sale.  Start crying as you sip.

20190414_164329378489809110525186.jpgAccording to Wine Folly, Malbec is loved “for {their} bold fruit flavors and smooth chocolaty finish.”  Fascinatingly, most Malbec is grown in Argentina, then France, where it is viewed as a blending grape, with the US in third place thanks to Washington state and North Coast CA.  According to Wine Folly, it should be jammy with plum and blackberry as the big fruit flavors.

Interestingly, I’ve generally cared less for Argentinian Malbecs.  That’s unfortunate, since Argentina “saved” it:

Argentina “Saved” Malbec

Today, Argentina leads production of the grape with over 75% of all the acres of Malbec in the world. In a way, Argentina reinvigorated Malbec as one of the top 18 noble grapes. Now it grows in seven countries and continues to grow in popularity.

I find I have loved the few Virginia single-varietal Malbecs I’ve tasted, especially from Chateau O’Brien and Arterra, as well as Narmada.  I do have one malbec from 8 Chains North that I need to sample against the Arterra.  I can’t wait to see the difference.  At some point I will do a comparison tasting, just like I did with the Narmada 2011 malbec.

Sadly, Virginia Terroir is not hospitable to Malbec, because it is a fussy grape (no wonder I love it!):

This thin-skinned “black grape” is something of a rustic relative of Merlot so it shares its sensitivity to rot, frost, and pests. Thus, having ideal growing conditions are extremely important to the final product. Perfect conditions include ample sunshine and a dry climate to thrive. Too much sunshine, however, will turn wines into flabby fruit bombs with little structure (alcoholic soda pop, anyone?). In short, Malbec is a fickle grape and it’s more sensitive to the climate.

Given 2018, it’s no wonder there is so little single-varietal, let alone very much grown at all in Virginia.  Darnit.  Plus, it seems to want to be grown at higher elevations than we generally have available here.

The 2016 Arterra Malbec is, as all of their wines are, fermented with native, ambient yeast.  Jason, Arterra co-owner and winemaker, also uses neutral oak in his aging process so that it doesn’t alter the flavor of the grapes, and I think that is why when I taste this wine I immediately get a bright and fruity feeling.  The lack of oak influence means that the fruit truly dominates this, and there is only a slight hint of vanilla within this malbec.  I actually only notice that because Wine Folly says its one of the five flavors in it, and so I had to consider that and acknowledge that I did taste it.

So VinePair declares Malbec the working man’s merlot:

What makes Malbec so popular is how easy it is to drink and how well it goes with or without food. Some people love to call Malbec a working man’s Merlot, as the wine has many of the same characteristics that make Merlot easy to drink, with an added spice and acidity that makes it seem less polished. Malbec is the guy who rides the Harley to Merlot’s guy that drives the Vespa.

I dunno about that, but I do know that there are a handful of malbecs that knock my socks off.  As far as grocery store Malbec, the only one I’ve liked so far is Layer Cake’s Malbec. Their write-up about it is kinda cool too.  That one is oaked however and has a “processed” taste to it.

This Arterra Malbec, vintage 2016, is brooding and dark, and can be drank all on its own.  No food pairing is needed to enjoy it.  I could see a rare burger being incredible with it.  At the same time, I would also eat spicy Chicken Basil from my favorite Thai place with it too – because the fruit would balance the spice very nicely.

20190414_1643232062367839689366917.jpg
Dang, look at the damage having children did to that table…

I wrote about this malbec at the red release party when it came out, and then I’ve been savoring the case and a half I purchased then ever since.  The next red release will occur (I hope) around October, just in time for my birthday.  You know I’ll treat myself to one or two cases at that point too.  Get ready, and get out of my way.

You don’t want to be between me and this malbec.

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