Duo of New World reds offer comfort in the cold
John H. Isacs
Over the past few decades, Malbec red wines from Argentina have become some of the world’s most affordable premium red wines. Wine lovers around the globe have fallen in love with the Malbec’s signature brooding dark red-black colors, rich fruity aromas and concentrated black fruit and chocolate flavors, often livened up with notes of spice. All these attractive qualities start with the grape.
Malbec is a grape that, depending who you talk to, originated in France or was brought to France by a Hungarian winemaker many centuries ago. Usually blended with other varieties to provide color and fruitiness, the grape thrived in Bordeaux and other regions of France until a severe frost in 1956 wiped out most the vines. French winemakers replanted with the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other varieties that weren’t so susceptible to frost and other climatic extremes. Today in France, only the Calors wine region in southwest France still has extensive plantings of this grape. The new home of Malbec is Mendoza, an elevated plateau bordering the Andes Mountains. The elevation provides an ideal combination of abundant daytime sunshine to ripen the grapes and cool evenings that contribute greater complexity and elegance to the wines.
The generous fruitiness and soft tannins of most Malbec wines make them suitable for many winter meat dishes. In respect to the national obsession with beef in Argentina, I often suggest pairing Malbecs with beef dishes. In fact, almost any part of the cow, from tongue to tail, matches harmoniously with Malbecs from Mendoza. The hearty and somewhat spicy nature of these wines also makes them quite suitable for many spicy Chinese or Asian meat dishes that may overwhelm more delicate reds.
There are a growing number of fine Malbecs available in Shanghai. My favorites include the Malbec specialists Bodegas Sottano, Vistaba and Inca. All three produce Malbec wines ranging from pleasant inexpensive wines to super premium wines that are among Argentina’s best. Additional good Mendoza producers making fine Malbecs include Argento, Sottano, Perdriel and the Moet-Hennessy owned Terrazas.Drink any of these robust reds and the chills of a Shanghai evening will magically and deliciously dissipate.
Region & Style at a glance
The elevated plateau of Mendoza is home to a host of varieties that thrive in cooler climates but Bordeaux transplant Malbec is King.
Soft tannins is a term used by wine lovers to describe a tannins that are not overly astringent or aggressive.