This luscious blend of malbec and cabernet is a marriage made in the Veneto. The grapes are Argentinian of course (with a dash of bonarda too), but the method is straight from Valpolicella. It’s made with dried grapes in the fashion of Ripasso and Amarone. The ingredients and partners are a perfect match: the top notch Renacer winery from Argentina and the Allegrini family we know and love from Italy. We know they make fabulous Amarone in the Veneto but this is big, complex and jam-sweet for less than half the price. Italy and Argentina have always been simpatico but never so handsomely and irresistibly.
Following the path of the famous importer Kermit Lynch I looked forward to meeting many of his great discoveries, especially Philippe Bernède. He’s the master of Malbec, the famous “black” wine of Cahors up in the rugged terrain above Toulouse. This is where Malbec was born, in an old Roman town east of Bordeaux. You don’t know Malbec until you’ve had it from the source, no matter how much from Argentina you’ve drunk.
Bernède is quite modest about it although his family has tended malbec for six generations and Clos la Coutale is the most famous label in the region. It’s an old favorite of Kermit, and mine too. The 2008 was a centerfold of “The Buzz” last year. Finally got to meet him when he joined us for a seaside feast of shellfish straight from the Mediterranean. Too bad we couldn’t have had cassoulet to go with his Coutale; it’s made for duck fat. Maybe next time – and I will be back. Bernède’s a quiet and charming guy with many talents: On the side he invented a new kind of corkscrew with a double hinge.
Anyhow, his wines have set the standard for Malbec, a robust “red” that truly is nearly black. Full of blackberries and very dark fruit, silkier than you expect, maybe because of the dollop of Merlot or his careful barrel aging (in Seguin-Moreau barrels just like the high-priced guys). Still the 2009 is definitely big and built for the long haul. ’09 was a terrific year for Bordeaux and it delivered the same goodness in Cahors.
Colomé just keeps getting better. The Malbec has been a league leader for years and a Top 100 regular for Wine Spectator. Just a whiff of the 2010 Torrontes wowed us too. Both of Argentina’s signature grapes are winners in Colomé’s hands, always a lot of class for little cost.
The estate Malbec received a 92 from Sr. Parker, and it’s a terrific wine. It has the kind of dense fruit I like, lots of dark berries that are very fresh and jammy but with very little sugar; lots of tang and tingle. It’s layered with licorice, fig and chocolate. Amazingly, the white has just as much punch and perfume, the most character I’ve had in a Torrontes. This is a big white, packed with spice and energy despite its size, like a Botero dame doing a tango. Take note: there’s nothing new about Colomé wines, this is no startup import label. It’s from higher up, in Salta where they’ve been making good wine for almost 200 years. Both of these are rich wines and great value at everyday retail, and at B-21′s prices they are terrific deals.
This starts slow and sultry, then picks up speed for a passionate embrace. It’s not just me. The ol’ hedonist Robert Parker falls for this beauty year after year. The 2010 Tikal Patriota gives malbec extra flesh and excitement with bonarda, one of my favorite minor grapes. It should come at no surprise that it’s an Argentinian staple! It’s made for dancing, lusty song and robust meals. That’s the “patriota” lifestyle Tikal wants to celebrate with this blend. Big body that needs a deep breath first, but then explodes like a flavorful bowl of cherry bombs. Luscious and wide open, but still graceful on its feet. I can’t believe they pack this much flavor into such an inexpensive bottle.
Fire up the grill. We’ll have a non-stop parrillada.
I am always drawn to Torrontés in the Crios line of Susana Balbo. Can’t say why, because I’m still noodling out exactly what this Argentine white is. I like the oddball status (found almost nowhere else) and the fragrance: it shames the sweeetest Gewürztraminer. Now that’s been traced to some old muscat varieties by ampelographers. Now there’s a profession I wish I’d known about in school; “Mom, I want to be a forensic botanist on CSI. …You know, and track down missing parents of lost grapes, using DNA and dusty historical, linguistic archives.”
No matter, Torrontés is bipolar. It starts out with a nose of peaches and flowers and ends crisp and refreshing like a Sauvignon Blanc without the grapefruit. So the big mystery is what foods it likes. It’s easy to make it just an apertif, but in Florida we need cool whites for dinner many a night. So, we pulled out the 2010 Crianza with a night of take-out Cuban; pulled roast pork, black bean soup, and caramelized plantains. Mind you, I doctored the pork liberally with rice vinegar and Cristal so it added a sharp acid punch. A remarkable marriage, the Torrontés had the gumption to cut the fat in the pork, but spice dared the torrontes to let loose all its viognier-like stone, fruit, tropical flavors like banana and a bouquet bigger than a florist’s shop.
Put this is at the top of your list of that grand middle category of Viognier, Pinot Blanc, and Viura that are neither Chardonnay nor Sauvignon Blanc. And keep trying it with various foods. For me, the next stop is Torrontés and Thai.
Here’s something special from the brilliant Susana Balbo. That’s a hard call since everything we have from her (Crios, Signature, etc.) is well worth buying and drinking, however the Benmarco wines are pure old-school Argentine.
The 2009 malbec is traditional stuff, big and concentrated, gets better if you let it sit in the glass and let it breathe a bit. Plenty of dark cherry and blueberries immediately; savory flavors come later, coffee, tobacco, licorice, bitter chocolate and heady spices. Wine for adults. What I like is that she blends in a good splash of bonarda which makes the texture extra lush. Been a fan of Balbo for a long time since Shannon and I met her in Mendoza a few years ago. She visited us here last year on a swing through the states. She’s very committed to sustainable farming and to Argentine terroir and character. This wine will make you head to the meat locker even if you’re not a gaucho or a tango dancer. Maybe a full mixed grill, steak, chops and sausage. You can get enough for the whole barbecue season!