Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finally! Enjoyable (and Inexpensive) Malbec

I'm convinced that a lot of Malbec's success is the result of good marketing.  That and American consumers' proclivity towards products with an exotic veneer, but which at their core aren't terribly risky.  Sit down at a wine bar some time and watch the facial expressions of people ordering.  There's a small flinch of raciness that registers when, say, a woman on a date orders a glass.  But that involuntary reaction doesn't come from ordering a Pinot Grigio or a Merlot.  No, no.  It's got to sound more insider-knowledge-ish...more dangerous.  

"I'll have the Malbec" in this context can sound a lot like "I'll have the foreplay."

I've tasted a lot of Malbec and, while some of it is good, I enjoy it more as a blended grape.  It's got a rough-hewn density that can border on astringent, even at higher price points.  There are some striking similarities between Malbec and Petite Sirah, but when was the last time you saw Petite Sirah on a by the glass list?  Good marketing, I say.

So, when I got an email from Joe, a Banfi PR guy pushing Malbec, I shared my skepticism with him.  He persisted, replying:

"In spite of your bad experience, I’m tempted to act boldly..."

Three inexpensive Malbecs showed up a week later and sat in the cellar until I worked up the courage to give them a whirl.  Joe was right to act boldly.  These wines aren't going to win any awards for out-classing Archaval-Ferrer's Finca bottlings ($100), but they certainly deliver a lot of drinking enjoyment for the money.

The Trivento Reserve Malbec ($12) and the Concha y Toro Frontera Malbec ($7) were both stand outs with the Trivento definitely being the more serious of the two.  However, the Frontera, while initially one dimensional and uninspiring, unfolded overnight (uncorked, by the way) into a thoroughly enjoyable drink with a smooth texture and attractive, lingering melody of flavors.  Ideal for grill-charred foods with heavy marinades and sauces.  And I've seen this stuff for $8.50 for a magnum.

Next time I reach for a Malbec, it's not going to be a pricey one.  No need.


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