Winelander – July 2, 2021

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A couple of emails this month has had me thinking that now winter is here how about trying something different from outside Australia because there are some outstanding red wines that are interesting especially if you have a few friends around and like to compare with your normal favourite.

From Argentina, the 5th largest wine producer in the world, the main variety is Malbec especially from the Mendoza region and it ages wonderfully well. Some years ago we were visiting Buenos Aires and after chatting to the sommelier about our great Australian wines, especially Shiraz, he invited me down to the wine cellar to examine his fabulous collection of Malbecs some more than fifty years old. Imagine if you can on a cold night this old restaurant with wooden floors, the log fire blazing away, the waiters wandering around the tables armed with long metal spikes carving slivers of beef onto the plates of the diners supported by bottles of Malbec, this was an evening truly to remember. Malbec originated in the southwest of France where its colour, tannins and acidity saw it become one of the top five grapes of Bordeaux where it is allowed to be used in the blending of the famous Bordeaux red wines. Unfortunately, the fruits poor resistance to weather and pests limited its production and in 1956 a major frost killed off much of the crop in the region. Whilst the acreage of Malbec is declining in France in Argentina the grape is surging and has become the “national variety” and is now identified as the Argentinian wine. It was introduced into Argentina in the 19th century but during the economic turmoil of the 20th century, some plantings of Malbec were pulled out and replaced with bulk wine grapes. However, in the 1990s the grape was rediscovered as the industry shifted its focus to premium wine in much the same way as here in Australia mainly satisfying a growing export market. Malbec arose to greater prominence and today 75% of the world’s Malbec grapes are planted in this country with the Mendoza region the leading producing region in places such as La Rioja, San Juan, Catamarca and Buenos Aires.

Malbec is a superb wine to enjoy with steaks, especially off the BBQ. Malbec wines from Argentina to look out for are Zuccardi, Young and Co. Santa Julia, Marraso, Catena and Trivento with prices ranging from $13 to $60 per bottle and Dan Murphy’s carry a pretty decent range. Several Australian wineries are also making a straight varietal Malbec including McGuigan, Taylors, Parkers and Pepperjack so there are plenty to try, my suggestion is to go for an Argentinian one. Over to North America for something completely different, Zinfandel, a grape variety that found a home in California around The Napa Valley and Sonoma, other countries including Australia have meddled with this variety but without any major success. In California the wine produced can be big and powerful or even sold as a white Zinfandel resembling a rose, expect aromas of blackberry jam and red currents, I have always enjoyed this style of wine since coming across it in Reno Nevada some years back and a brand called Joel Gott which is available through some speciality stores in Australia, I notice that Corkscrew Cellars in New South Wales sell it online at $30.

In Dan Murphy’s they have several good examples at varying prices ranging from Young and Co. $13, Gallo Family Winemakers White Zinfandel $10, KendallJackson $35 and Murphy Goode $45 this is another perfect red meat wine although the white version would be better with a delicate fish serving. Moving back down to South America on the west coast Chile is making some very good wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay however they too have a red wine variety that stands out and that is Carmenere. Originally from the Medoc region in France, it was initially mistaken for Merlot the wine is deep red in colour with aromas of red fruits, spices and berries, although often used a blending grape with Cabernet Sauvignon wineries do bottle a straight varietal which when produced at optimal ripeness imparts a cherry-like fruit flavour with smoky spicy and earthy notes and deep crimson colour. Carmenere is a wine to serve with mature cheese, pasta and even grilled chicken, Dan Murphy’s have a modest selection including several from Casillero Del Diablo ranging in price from $14 to $27 and Frontera at $10. A few ideas for you to try something a little different at a reasonable price, they reckon there are over a thousand grape varieties out there around the world that wine can be made from so experiment once in a while.