Thursday, March 12, 2009

Argentina - Part Seven - Malbec continues

No need for any preliminaries here, let's just get to it.
El Cipres Malbec 2005 - 100% Malbec, from Maipu, Mendoza. Gunpowder and black tea on the nose, almost iodine - but more pleasant than that sounds. Very focused on the palate with good layered fruit and no noticeable oak influence. Good! 2nd day - Penetrating aroma still and bright acid remains. Gunpowder still there, but less obvious today. Very tasty, I like this a lot, but is it only for geeks? 3rd day - Wow, still wild and intense with plenty of bright, fresh fruit. Quite intense and lovely. Importer - Pinnacle International. $9-$11
Bodegas Septima Malbec 2006 - 100% Malbec from the Upper Mendoza River and the Valle de Uco. The grapes from the two regions are vinified separately in stainless steel and then aged for six months in American oak. After that time in wood, the final blend is completed. My tasting notes are short and not so sweet. Awful - hollow and stewed. Another taster shared the following, "ewwwww." Avoid! Imported by Grupo Codorniu - A.V. Brands, Inc. $9-$12
Urban Uco Malbec 2006 - A joint project between the Fournier family in Ribera del Duero, Spain and Jorge Ordonez, a leading importer of Spanish wines. 100% Malbec from La Consulta, Mendoza at 3,600 feet. Fermentation in stainless steel and 3 months in oak. Pretty cherry note on the nose, the wine is simple, but well made. Red fruit is dominant and the wine is perhaps lighter than some might expect, but not wimpy. 2nd day - Still juicy, very pretty with some minor spice. Well done. I like this wine! 3rd day - Wild berry fruit on the nose, the palate is a bit tired now. Not bad on day four, but no longer great either. Importer - Jorge Ordonez. $9-$11
Alamos Malbec 2007 - Again, 100% Malbec from various vineyards in Mendoza, with "moderate oak aging in French and American oak." Part of the Catena Zapata winery. I found the wine sulfury on the nose (like burnt matches) with gritty red fruit. The palate is fine, but I don't think it's worth drinking. Another taster, however, wrote, "solid, round, dark, smooth." 2nd day - Still sulfury, and now also a bit stewy, the palate is better today, but it almost had to be. Importer - Billington Distributors. $9-$12
Alamos Seleccion Malbec 2006 - The only perceivable difference between the regular Malbec and this special version is that this one comes exclusively from La Consulta in Mendoza. The previous wine had three other sources. However, this wine fared much better in my tasting notes. Smoke, meat, and cherry dominate the nose with some tart fruit tucked in there as well. Simple, but mostly correct. Not bad, not good. 2nd day - Super sweet cherry with some dark fruit tones in the aroma and I like the palate more today. 3rd day - Dark fruit emerging more, the wine appears a bit tired. Okay still, but clearly fading. A good Malbec that offers decent complexity and a palate pleasing style. Might get a solid recommendation if it were a bit less expensive. Importer - Billington Distributors. $13-$16
Dona Paula Malbec 2006 - 100% Malbec from Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza from a vineyard planted in 1971. About 20% of the grapes are left whole for fermentation, which should result in a slightly juicier style. Stainless steel fermentation is followed by 12 months in oak - both French and American. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. (Now there's a complete tech sheet for the wine, thank you Vineyard Brands). Some dark fruit appears on the edges of the aromas, but more red shows. The wine is well made, easy but firm, crowd pleasing but real and not manipulated. Bravo! 2nd day - More sweet fruit, a tad stewy on the nose, still drinkable, but barely. I like it both with food and as a glass. Very versatile style, just finish the bottle up in one night - or preserve it somehow. Importer - Vineyard Brands. $10-$12
Kaiken Reserva Malbec 2006 - The Argentine arm of Montes from Chile. First vintage was 2002, but the vines for this wine are fifteen years old. They produce Reserva and Ultra, so the Reserva is the entry level (man it makes me crazy when wineries do that). There is 7% Cabernet Sauvignon blended with the Malbec from Mendoza. A little over half of the wine is aged in American oak for nine months. Most of it must be new, because this is a full on oak bomb. It will sell well because it's BIG and full in the mouth but I get nothing but wood on the nose, palate and finish. However, another taster had this to say, "good flesh, good balance, dark, lengthy finish. 2nd day - Dark, smoky wood with a totally dull palate that is at least soft and accessible. 3rd day - There is a brightness to the nose today, with a soft, supple palate. The oak is still there, but I like it more today. I was amazed at how lively it was on the third day with all of the oak. Maybe this wine just needs more time to grow into the wood - at least it is not full of tough oak tannins. I would love to see it in another year or so. Importer - TGIC Imports. $10-$12
Nieto Senetiner Reserva Malbec 2006 - 100% malbec and from all estate fruit in Mendoza. The winery has been around since the late 1800's and I came across the wine due to a recommendation from Matt Kramer. http://www.oregonlive.com/foodday/index.ssf/2008/11/matt_kramer_recommends_some_gr.html
Mr. Kramer writes for the Wine Spectator and the local Portland paper, the Oregonian. His opinion carries significant weight in town and this wine was sold out based on his review. I finally got to taste the wine a few weeks ago and I have to say I was disappointed. Dark, nearly opaque, purple color with some sweet oak and vanilla on the nose. The palate is soft, lush and moderately tight yet not tannic. A short time later I found the wine to be even more closed with hints of gritty tannin (not a level that would normally put me off except it seems to be less organic and more induced, and therefore harder to match with food). Some cocoa, some fruit, but overall I found if flat, safe, and uninteresting. Nothing really wrong with it, but completely missable. Importer - Winebow (remember what I said earlier about importers with focus starting to expand?). $9-$12
Had enough Malbec for one day? I'm going to push on. Three more to go and then onto a new price point.
Carinae Malbec 2005 - From Maipu in Mendoza, the vines are 80 years old and the wine is completely unoaked. Cherry fruit dominates, the wine is a bit tight on the front, but the finish has good length. The wine is exactly what they describe on the importers website, focused, bright, acid, rather than tannin, driven and "everyday drinking wine...purely fruit driven." 2nd day - Smells a bit medicinal today but the finish is still okay. There is more sweet cherry there too though. 3rd day - clearly faded and getting weird, it's not really fair to even describe the smells on this day. This is wine to finish the first night opened, you won't have any problems with that once you try it. Importer - Pinnacle International. $10-$12
La Linda Malbec 2006 - From Lujan de Cuyo in Mendoza, the vineyards are at 3,200 feet and the wine is 100% Malbec. The wine spends three to four months in twice used barrels. I find a shy nose, a bit acidic, with a decent palate, but a bit short. 2nd day - Dry nose with a light touch of cedar from the oak. Decent red fruit in the mouth, but very dry with a clipped, short finish. You could do better. Importer - Gaucho Imports. $10-$12
Trapiche Malbec 2006 - 100% Malbec from "selected vineyards...in the east region of Mendoza." Red fruit, and an almost Bordeaux note of clay, leads to an unexciting and fairly acidic palate. Another taster, "good solid juice." 2nd day - Red fruit and the clay note again, with a bricky, slightly older fruit note. The tannin (moderate) and acid outweigh the fruit for me. Another example of a wine that could be served at functions without making anyone truly unhappy, but there's no real reason to choose to drink this. Importer - Frederick Wildman. $7-$9

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