It’s time for the next installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. This time around we learn about our last red variety, which means after this post we’ll officially be halfway through the list. Last time we explored the wild and wacky world of Syrah/Shiraz, and today we get to know Malbec.
About the Noble Grape Challenge
Let’s refresh ourselves on what’s going on here – Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of flavours and characteristics found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites and going through them from lightest to darkest, we’ll learn about the key characteristics and flavours of each.
Malbec is a really old grape that found its first home in the Bordeaux and South West regions of France. It was (and remains) one of the notable grapes used in Bordeaux blends (along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot) but the place that has really made Malbec into a single-variety wonder is Argentina.
Argentina took this lesser known, lesser used French grape and made it their specialty. Many of Argentina’s best vineyards are planted at high elevation, which means the vineyards tend to have hot days but cool nights. It’s this temperature swing that retains lots of acidity in the grapes, which we now know is one of the keys to giving a wine a long and delicious life.
Argentinian Malbecs tend to be full bodied with medium to high tannins that are often pretty smooth. They have lots of dark fruit going on (stuff like blackberry and black plum) and some spiciness, which I love (stuff like black pepper and clove). The thing I love most about Malbec is that it’s super deeply coloured, often completely opaque in the glass with a purpley, sometimes magenta thing going on on the rim of the liquid. Very different, very cool.
The Test Case
Today’s test case is the 2014 Zorzal Terroir Único Malbec from Argentina.
- My first reaction to this wine is that it is much paler and more red than I would expect from an Argentinian Malbec. I do love inky purple wines. Ho hum.
- Despite not being what I expected it is a quite a pretty ruby red colour.
- The nose is deep and lovely, with red (again, not expected!) cherry and plum, plus some black pepper and something tobacco-y, like a cigar box or something.
- The flavour is nice and smooth with bright acidity and some added oomph from the tannins. Hello there, wine! I also get more of the same red fruit but with some black ones too (blackberry, black plum, maybe some black currant), and that peppery note from the nose along with some clove, giving the wine a nice zing on the finish.
Well, this certainly wasn’t the Malbec I was expecting. No black fruit on the nose, quite a pale colour, no purple-ness. It does have the pepper and clove though, so I guess I’ll accept what the label says. And despite not being the wine I thought it would be I did quite like it.
Next time on NGC – a brief look back at the nine red varieties before delving into the whites!