As we become more serious about wine we find that it has become closely attached to the places we visit, the people we meet and meals we enjoy. Malbec is one of those wines for which we have particularly enjoyable memories. We were reminded of that close connection this weekend when we prepared a meal to enjoy with two bottles of Malbec we received as tasting samples in celebration of World Malbec Day, April 17.
For us Malbec will be forever connected to Argentina and the parrilla – an iron grill used to cook meat over an open flame. This method of cooking is common in Argentina and we enjoyed many delicious meals cooked in this manner during our stay in Buenos Aires in 2005. We invariably enjoyed a bottle of Argentinian Malbec with our bife angosto, bife de lomo or ojo de bife.
When considering a food pairing for Malbec, grilled beef is my first thought (though lamb is also delicious). The cut I choose varies depending what grass-fed cuts are available in the market. Flank steak, tri-tip or rib-eye are always good choices. And I like to add chimichurri and roasted potatoes. These are the flavors that take me back to Buenos Aires.
We received two Argentinian Malbecs to celebrate World Malbec Day, both made by Hess Family Wine Estates. The Hess Family portfolio of wines includes The Hess Collection, Artezin and MacPhail Wines in addition to the two wines we received, Colomé and Amalaya, both of which are from Salta the northwest of Argentina.
The history of Colomé reaches back to 1831 and includes a pre-phylloxera planting of French Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition to the long history of winemaking at Colomé the elevation of estate vineyards in the upper portion of Salta’s Calchaquí Valley is noteworthy. La Brava Vineyard sits at 5,740 feet above sea level, Colomé Vineyard at 7,545, Il Arenal Vineyard at 8,530 and Altura Maxima at 10,207. These elevations are extreme and according to Colomé they’re the highest in the world. The winery describes the importance of elevation this way:
“The altitude is one of the most important factors for the development of the vine. The higher the altitudes, the greater the exposure to the sun and the wider the thermal amplitude, which ranges between 20° during day and night. Those factors facilitate the uniform and balanced development of the grapes.
Such impact becomes even greater in our Valley because the clear and bright sky contributes to an even higher intensity of the sun.”
2015 Colomé Estate Malbec, Salta, Argentina — dense ruby in the glass with generous aromas of blackberries, dried herbs and salty minerals. Blackberry and blueberry flavors are backed by a hint of smoke and an intense slate minerality that develop over time. Tannins are drying and significant, but well integrated with the flavors, which last a long time. This wine is substantial, medium+ body, but not heavy or overripe, and has nice acidity. 14.9% abv. SRP $25
All four of the above mentioned estate vineyards are represented in this bottling and it is 100% Malbec. It was aged for 15 months in French oak and 6 months in bottle before release. It is a screaming deal at $25.
It was lovely to taste the evolution of this wine in the glass. We tasted it over several hours and it became even more enjoyable over time. This is the second vintage of the Colomé Estate Malbec we have tasted and enjoyed.
2016 Amalaya Malbec, Salta, Argentina — dense ruby-violet in the glass with blueberry, dusty earth and dried herb aromas. Red and dark fruit flavors of ripe raspberries, blueberries and blackberries along with notes of smoke and asphalt are backed by hints of dried herbs. Well-integrated tannins are a bit drying and linger with the flavors for a medium-length finish. 13.9% abv. SRP $16
This is an easy-drinking Malbec. A quick twist will remove the cap. Pour a glass and enjoy it. It is very food-friendly and will appeal to a wide variety of wine drinkers. Once again, the price is amazing.
The blend of 85% Malbec 10% Tannat 5% Petit Verdot is sourced from Finca Las Mercedes and the Calchaquí Valley. 25% of the wine was aged for 8 months in French oak. The Amalaya range of wines are based on Malbec and Torrontés but are blended with other varieties for maximum expression.
Grilled tri-tip, oven roasted broccolini and potatoes with chimichurri on the side made the perfect meal to accompany both Malbecs. I seasoned the tri-tip with salt, pepper and marjoram before Pete put it on the grill. The broccolini was simply seasoned with salt and pepper before roasting.
My favorite potato recipe comes from Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann’s cookbook Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. His recipe for Potato Dominoes is the best — what’s not to love about thinly-sliced potatoes roasted in butter? I have made them often.
Chimichurri can be made with a variety of herbs and seasoning; I prefer parsley and cilantro with crushed red pepper, garlic and cumin.
We enjoyed these delightful Malbecs with our meal outdoors on the patio. Pete searched iTunes for Argentinian music and the combination transported us back to warm February evenings in Buenos Aires.
Thank you to Donna White Communications for sending these delightful Malbecs our way (and for the mini-vacation!)
Happy World Malbec Day!