Once a novelty, malbec from Argentina, the country’s signature red variety, is now widely available in the U.S. But did you know that the grape was brought to Argentina from France, where it produces robust and tannic red wines? The most famous of the French malbecs is from Cahors in the southwest, but malbec is also found in the Loire Valley (where it is called côt) and in Bordeaux, where a few producers still use it in their blends.
The French wines typically require more aging than malbecs from Argentina, where an abundance of sunshine ripens the grapes easily and results in wines with densely concentrated fruit. The problem with the Argentine wines is that they can have a somewhat overripe quality and can come off as dull, partly because they tend to have less acidity than their French counterparts.
One that stands out, however, is Dominio del Plata’s 2010 BenMarco Malbec, which blends grapes from vineyards in various areas within the large Mendoza region. While several other malbecs I tasted recently were overly oaky, this new release from winemaker Susana Balbo had good balance, with bright blackberry and black cherry, an attractive cedar note and enough acidity to make it a refreshing food wine. It’s a good choice for grilled meats and sausages and savory roasts. Added complexity is achieved with 10 percent bonarda blended in. It’s 14 percent alcohol and the suggested price is $20, although a look at wine-searcher.com shows some stores offering it for considerably less. Imported by Vine Connections, Sausalito, Calif.
What about something to whet the appetite? From New Zealand’s Marlborough region, Dashwood’s 2011 Sauvignon Blanc is classic Kiwi sauvignon, full of zesty lime, stone fruit (especially nectarine), some grassiness and a little burst of orange on the finish. This $15 wine with bracing acidity is effortless to drink and is made for shellfish and fried calamari. It’s also an excellent aperitif wine. Imported by Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, N.Y.
Wines received as press samples.
Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his wine reviews and commentary on his blog, Vint-ed.com, and follow him on Twitter.
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