My introduction to the varietal Malbec was a complete accident. As I have mentioned previously, I am a bit of nerd when it comes to wine. I am also a collector at heart. A wide and diverse collection is something to be cherished. So, when I was ambulating leisurely through Dan Murphy’s one morning taking my time in choosing a six and happened to be struck by a sign saying “Top 30 Awesome Reds” or similar, I was intrigued to see a varietal I hadn’t encountered before. Scanning the label it said something about big berry red and being from Argentina. Brilliant, my first Malbec AND my first Argentinean wine. One stone, two birds, etc.
That sign, in all its marketing gaudiness, would, in some (admittedly trite) way change my life. Argentinean Malbecs have become my thing.
So, today, I would like to introduce you to a very excellent Malbec. The Malbec I will be reviewing is the ‘younger brother’ of the one I encountered that Tuesday afternoon. Having said that, it is quite excellent and can be had for less than $10.
First, a little background: Malbec is originally a French grape, and is one of the official six varietals that are allowed to form part of a Bordeaux red blend. The popularity of Malbec in France has declined sharply the last 70 odd years. Fortunately for us, however, the grape variety has become something of the ‘National’ grape in Argentina. In particular, it has been very successfully grown at high altitude in regions like Mendoza (remember this if you are looking for a Malbec, as other regions can be a bit nasty).
The first thing you will notice is the deep inky colour as it pours into the glass. It is dark enough to almost be considered purply-black. It is quite startling at first. As you swirl the wine you will notice long legs (the ‘tears’ that fall back to the basin of the wine). This indicates the high alcoholic nature of the Malbec. This is a common trait of the variety. While this bottle is 14.5%, its older brother is a hefty 15% (remember this if driving!).
As the wine ‘opens up’ (technical term for the wine aerating, thus releasing its aroma and flavour), you will notice strong berry aromas – most notably blueberries and dark fruits and almost a hint of violets. There is nothing too subtle here. There will be a pleasant harmony, or balance, to the nose, but subtle it is not. There will be layers too. It might take a little while to notice them, but they are there.
And then we take a sip. Beautiful berry flavour – savoury though. This isn’t a jammy Australian shiraz. It has very low residual sugars, so it will come across as quite tart. If you like your wines sweet, this one may not be for you. Decanting the wine for 30-45 minutes wouldn’t hurt here, as it is a bit on the young side.
As you roll the wine around in your mouth, you will notice a very round mouthfeel. Soft, pleasant. Everything working together. After that last swallow, the pleasant flavour lingers, meaning it has quite a nice medium length finish.
For $10 from your local Dan Murphy’s, this is remarkably good value. It is not necessarily a show case Malbec, but it is very good all round. If you have never tried this variety, you will find the Kaiken Malbec Reserva a good place to get started.
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