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Wine Review: Malbecs challenge the king grape of red wines

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A long time ago in a vineyard far, far away, a grape variety, the cabernet sauvignon was anointed as the source for the king of all wines.

For centuries, other red wines have tried to grab the crown but none ever succeeded. Now, a contender from a far away land has arisen that may take the sword out of the stone: malbec. Although malbec has been known about for years in France, it never achieved any notoriety and was always considered a grape to “beef up” weak wines or as the main grape in the dense, dark, super tannic wines of Cahors in France. Malbec was a grape variety that was truly like the South Pole: Everybody knew where it was, but nobody wanted it.

Enter the Argentineans. Early in their winemaking history, much like their Californian brethren, the Argentineans planted every variety they could lay their hands on to determine where it would grow best and if it’d make a decent wine. Among the varieties they tried was the lowly and often ridiculed malbec. To their amazement, the vine not only thrived in Argentina but also produced a red wine that could command the attention of even the most critical of wine aficionados. And thus, the malbec gauntlet was thrown down as a challenger to “the king.”

Here are a few to try.

Amalaya 2018 Malbec ($16)
As the wine is poured, the aromas of strawberries, raspberries, dark summer fruits and a hint of black pepper rise from the glass. These fruit aromas travel onto the flavor, where they merge with vanilla and oak derived from aging the wine in French oak cask. Unlike many of our current red wines that are often “over oaked,” the oak in this wine is about as pleasant as any I have previously sampled.

Colome 2017 Estate Malbec ($25)
While all malbecs share the same basic flavors and aromas, it is the depth, the feel in the mouth and the finish that separate one from another. This wine features the dark summer fruit component of the variety that is often missing in other malbecs, due to the terrain that the grapes are grown in. The Colome Estate is located in a valley at the foot of the Andes Mountains, where cool morning temperatures and warm daytime sun are exactly what grape vines love. This location is also the recipient of mineral-enriched rainwater that flows from the mountains irrigating the grapes and imparting to them a flavor and finish that is distinctly Argentinean and matched by few other wines. This wine also has a substantial body, and it is in the areas of depth of the finish where this wine truly shines. A feature that cannot be described by words, the depth is realized with the first sip.

Colome Autentico 2018 Malbec ($30)
Choosing the grapes to make a wine must be very difficult for the winemakers. As it happens, in every vineyard, there is one section that produces better grapes than any of the others. Whether it is the amount of sun, rain, soil, microclimate or even the drainage of the area, its grapes are the best of the best and so deserve special treatment – what we call tender-loving care. So it is with the Colome Autentico. The grapes from this section were fermented separately and carefully husbanded by the vintners. The resulting wine is their masterpiece and is treated as such. While a better cabernet sauvignon can sell for well over $100 a bottle, this gem can be considered in the affordable range.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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