Five Malbec Wines from Five Regions on Three Continents: Antigal, Cantara, Mercer, Theron, Troon

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Malbec is an up and coming varietal that until recently was better known for its importance as a blending grape in classic Bordeaux wines (along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot).

While Malbec has long been in the shadow of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, not much longer! As Malbec gets discovered, thanks in part to an influx of well made fruity and food friendly Malbec from South America, particularly in Argentina where it grows spectacularly well, we will be finding more Malbec! Today you can find Malbec being grown around the world with more people choosing to bottle it on its own in addition to blends as we consumers find and fall in love with this deeply purple, blue fruited, food friendly wine.

Recently, Que Syrah Sue and I sampled Malbec from five regions in the world (and three continents!). As we tasted, we contemplated Malbec and considered a number of questions including: Does price or continent matter? What about whether a winery is large or small? The five Malbec wines we tasted were:

  • 2011 Domaine Du Theron:  Cahors, France $18
  • 2013 UNO Antigal Winery and Estates:  Mendoza, Argentina $18
  • 2014 Mercer Canyon: Washington, US $14
  • 2012 Cantara: Clements Hills, Lodi, California, US  $38
  • 2014 Troon Vineyard: – M T Reserve, Oregon, US $55

Domaine Du Theron – 2011 Cahors Appelation – France – Malbec – 13.0% alcohol – $18

The birthplace of Malbec is in the village of Prayssac, located in the heart of the Cahors area, and this wine is made from vines grown on limestone and clay that have been in the hands of the Pelvillain family for over a century. According to Didier Pelvillain, owner (with his two brothers) and winemaker at Domaine du Theron, if the Malbec is given sufficient aging before release, tannins will soften. This wine is comprised of 100% Malbec which is “a little different, many/most Malbecs from Cahors at the moment are blended with Merlot,” states Didier Pelvillain.

The 2011 is still tannic and powerful, and we found this Malbec stood up to a big strong blue without a problem. The strength in the cheese brought out the fruit in the wine and tackled the tannins making them velvety smooth. This is what we consider an old world style wine: not a heavy fruit bomb type of wine; there are great mineral characteristics in this wine, medium bodied but also light and delicate, very well balanced, very earthy, and it could have a little bit of bret to it, plus sulphur and saline with the fruit.

Damp forest floor, violets, iris, mushroom, hints of mint, redwood forest after rainfall: all of this is going on in the nose. This wine is very evocative and complex. I thought this would go well with stew type meals. They recommended game with this wine, and I could see elk medallions or elk burgers with blue cheese. The earthy qualities in the wine will go well with gamey type meals. Also anything with mushroom would go well with this wine: think about stuffed portabellas or a mushroom burger. There’s a lot here for $18!

This wine was provided as a sample for our review consideration.

UNO Antigal Winery and Estates – 2013 Malbec – Mendoza Argentina – 13.9% alcohol – $18

Antigal’s Malbec is an ordinary wine in an extraordinary bottle with a nice cork.

This handsome bottle is very masculine feeling, cool, tall, dark, and handsome: definitely dressed to impress.

Barrel aged for eight months in French and American oak; 60,000 cases produced (compare that to Cantara’s 60 cases of their Malbec described below — but also $20 more!).

While overall unassuming, the color is a pretty purple, dense, and seductive. On the nose, we found some blue and black fruit and sweet vanilla. On the palate, there’s more blue fruit with flavors of butterscotch and oak. Recognizably new world in style, it is fruit forward with black, blue, and red fruits. While pleasurable as a cocktail wine, when paired with fatty spicy foods, the wine responds nicely. Try it with gourmet burgers with blue cheese; with blue cheese it has a lovely unctuousness.

This wine was provided as a sample for our review consideration.

 

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Mercer Canyon 2014 Malbec Washington $14

Super dense purple in color, so dense you can’t see through it:

captivatingly pretty jewel tones of amethyst.

The Mercer Canyons 2014 Malbec was selected by Seattle Times writer Andy Perdue as one of his Top 50 wines of 2014 which is impressive considering it retails for $14.  Even more impressive, Perdue says it’s “the best wine under $15 I tasted this year. This is my hope for Washington Malbec competing with Argentine imports.”

We agree: this possibly one of the best red wines we had in 2016 for under $15. It is a very straightforward, satisfying wine, and we highly recommend it! We found it so enjoyable because it offered us just the right amount of blue fruit to structure. You could enjoy this wine at a party or a happy hour, or pair with a stuffed portabella or a blue cheese burger. This would be a  great wine to look for by the glass next time you are out and you want a versatile red that’s not too expensive.

 

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Jessica Munnell is the winemaker and we plan to feature two of her other wines in a Women’s History Month feature in March.

This wine was provided as a sample for our review consideration.

Cantara – 2012 – Malbec – Clements Hills – Lodi, California – 13% alcohol – $38

Malbec is always special at Cantara. It is usually bottled in very small quantity, due to the fact that they often do not have a whole lot after it is used in their blends. When there is some left over, it is only around 40 to 60 cases. One year they only made seven cases which they sold to wine club members who had pre-ordered futures. Since then Cantara has continued to increase production a bit at a time each year. Because it is so special and rare, this wine is twice the price of the other three wines described above. Sue loves this wine so much she bought a case of it!

So what do you get when you pay more? In this case, a beautiful fruity nose, with hints of sweet vanilla from the oak. It offers great balance across the palette, with acidity, fruit, smooth tannins, and a robust, satisfying finish. There is a lot of complexity going on in this wine which can move from being an enjoyable glass with friends to light appetizers all the way through a substantial meal. While not a heavy wine, it is certainly not delicate either.

On the nose, it is kind of honeyed, like honeycomb or honey crisp with vanilla, blue fruit, and some mint with hints of sage. On the palate we found blue fruit up front, and tart red fruit on the finish: blueberries and boysenberry, then bright cranberry and Jolly Ranchers cherry. There is a lot of backbone and acidity with a good medium body that is not going to over power anything. As it opens up we got more of the blue fruit on the nose.

The Cantara Malbec went so well with our panchetta wrapped pork tenderloin with sage and rosemary. the brussel sprouts and potatoes were a beautiful pair with this wine. The salt of the panchetta, and the rosemary sage, mustard wrapped pork loin: it was heavenly.

This wine was provided as a sample for our review consideration.

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Troon Vineyard – M + T Reserve 2014 – southern Oregon – 14.4% alcohol $55

As mentioned above, Malbec is commonly found blended with the wines of Bordeaux. But what about blending it with Tannat? While Troon makes a 100% Malbec, recently on #WineStudio, Sue and I tasted Troon’s blend with 39.9% Malbec , 60.1% Tennat (co-fermented) which I thought would make an interesting final wine to discuss in this post.

As Malbec is just coming out of the shadow of being lost in a blend, Tannat is even less well-known. Historically grown in the southwest of France, Tannat offers deep color and bramble berry notes but it can be almost overwhelming and abrasive with tannins. Today is grown around the world but it has been embraced by Uruguay as the national grape because there it has softer tannins and a lighter body.

Troon: “Wines Defined by Naure – it’s as simple as this”

During the #WineStudio session with Craig Camp, we learned that the 2014 is very different from the 2013 had more Malbec with (57.76%) and less Tannat (44.33%). As Tannat is known for its firm tannins, Malbec which has rounded tannins balances that out as necessary to the particular vintage. The granitic soils in Oregon’s Applegate Valley also give the Tannat rounder tannins making it the perfect place to grow a Tannat that will be more approachable sooner.  We also learned that there are lots of microclimates in the area which means many varieties can do well when planted in the right place. At Troon, two acres are planted in Tannat and six are planted in Malbec with the vines between eight and ten years old.

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So what do you get for $55? A wine of substance, in every sense of the word. Troon is proudly sustainable: using indigenous and natural malolactic ferments, foot trodden, and creative co-ferments like the M + T. Troon is also – L.I.V.E. and Salmon Safe Certified.

Planted in 1972 by Dick Troon, Troon Vineyard is an historic part of Oregon winemaking. In 2003, Troon’s fishing buddy Larry Martin took over the reins, built a winery and a tasting room, and in the process, revolutionized Southern Oregon winemaking with his introduction of unusual varieties like vermentino, tannat and malbec that take advantage of the region’s terroir.

The M + T is a wine that needs to open up; you can use an arration or decantar system to make this youthful wine much more rounder and more approachable or wait a few years: it really needs the time to loosen up. But once it does,

you will be delighted by its complexity: herbal notes of lavender, floral notes of iris, lively bramble fruits ramble the palate, and earthy notes of spice and chocolate in the finish.

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The powerful M + T went well with strong flavors: sharp cheddar, blue cheese, and salami. The spicy flavors in the salami bring out a sweetness in the wine and smooth out the tannins. This is much more of a food wine than a cocktail wine: break out those fatty meats! PS Stay tuned for a blog post soon about their Vermentino: this Troon made us swoon!

This wine was provided as a sample for our review consideration.

Malbec fans, rejoice! We have more Malbec on the horizon! On Tuesday February 28,  #WineStudio tastes and tweets about the Sonoma County Malbec from Ordaz Family Wines : 2012 Sandoval Vineyard Malbec (SRP $25) from 6-7pm PST.  Plus a sample arrived recently from Amado Sur! Grown in the foothills of the Andes Mountains near Mendoza, Argentina by Trivento, this wine blends Malbec with smaller amounts of Bonarda and Syrah. These wines were provided as a sample for our review consideration.

And here’s a post from #WineStudio last fall with more MALBEC: #ManyMoodsofMalbec for September’s #WineStudio with Achaval-Ferrer
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We’re ready for Malbec World Day April 17, 2017! Are you? You might want to pick up one of these to enjoy that day — or sooner!

 

 

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