Sunday, April 25, 2010

Malbec Lineup

We gathered some friends for a mutual birthday celebration and used the occasion to taste and compare three different Malbecs. Next month I will be making my first Malbec, and I was interested in trying several different selections and collecting feedback on the aromas, flavors and textures that I might aim to created in my own wine.

We tasted the following wines:

Bodegas Escorihuela Don Miguel Gascon Malbec Mendoza 2008 (Argentina, $14.99)
Clayhouse Vineyards Paso Robles 2008 Malbec (California, $13.99)
Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec Mendoza Lunlunta 2007 (Argentia, $23.99)

The food pairings included a cheese plate containing, brie, smoked gouda and dill havarti with crusty bread, oil and crackers. We moved on to dinner of Margot's meatloaf, bacon & cheddar potato skins and broiled asparagus. Dessert was chocolate cake.

First up was the Gascon which due to lack of aeration, bad serving temperature or something else tasted flat to everyone. It presented itself with very low acidity, mild aromas and flavors and Richard comment it tasted "rusty". Pete and I returned to it later and it had opened up a bit, but still tasted off and lifeless. As I write this, the next day, I am tasting it again and it is more aromatic and flavorful, although still a bit understated. All of this suggests some air is necessary before serving this wine. This wine was underwhelming enough that no food pairing notes were taken.

Next in line was the Clayhouse, which from the very first sniff caught everyone's attention. Dark purple in color it was a pleasure to pour this wine and imagine what aromas and flavors awaited me. I found this wine a bit drier and more acidic than the Gascon, but with the intense fruit in this wine those attributes were well needed. The group shared thoughts on the fruit with my suggestion of raspberry garnering some objections. Cindy suggested black currants and Wayne added choke cherries, with currant being widely agreed upon. This selection went very well with the dill havarti for me, the spiciness of wine matching very well with the hit of dill in the cheese. I finished this bottle earlier today and found it even more pleasant with some air.

The final selection was the Catena Lunlunta. I specifically selected this more expensive wine to evaluate how price affected our experiences with the wines. The aromas of the wine were less pungent than the Clayhouse, but felt cleaner and more focused. This wine had the fullest body of the three and offered more refinement in the flavors as well. This wine was spicier than the two previous and slightly more tannic with a noticeable "teeth cleaning" sensation. It paired well with the brie matching the mild earthy flavors in the wine with the usual funky brie flavors. Wayne clearly enjoyed this bottle, specifically asking for it to be passed his way again during dinner. I very much enjoyed this wine and would buy it again for a special occasion, but I would be more apt to stock the Clayhouse as my house Malbec.

In the end the Clayhouse inspired the most conversation. Pete and I returned to it a bit later and found that although the air had helped it open, the increase in temperature made it taste harsh and hot.

This was a very fun and rewarding experience. I took a away a good impression of the range Malbec can span and a better understanding of where I can hope to take my home crafted version.




denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

Hi Jason - I've recently fallen in love with Malbec but find it difficult to find good representations of this particular varietal from outside Cahors or Argentina and even these aren't anywhere as common as many other reds. Guess I have to wait till it's as "big" and well known as Shiraz or Cab Sauv *sigh* Appreciate the heads up on these 3 wines though I haven't seen any of them in my area. Will definitely keep an eye out for any of them.

I like the way you review wines - very down to earth and accessible with the minimum of wine speak, so that it's undaunting for winephobes or anyone who has little knowledge on wine. Great job!

Jason Phelps said...

@denise @ quickies on the dinner table

Thank you so much for taking a look and your feedback. Until that tasting I had never had any other Malbecs than from Argentina. The one from CA was definitely something I will come back to. Does deliver in your area? I don't know if they have any of these selections, but I have definitely used that service when my local stores didn't carry something I wanted.

Your feedback on my wine tasting method is very supportive. I try not to take too "technical" of an approach as I think it takes away from the experience a bit. I am training to be a sommelier so I need to get more technical, but I view that job as helping create experiences for others and not just wine nerds. I hope my methods now will help me in that way in the future.

Thank You!