Ok, It’s (probably) not what you’re thinking.
What I wanted to do today was highlight the versatility of Argentine Malbec – not just because it’s capable of delivering more than the tongue-coating, savory inkiness of a dry red that we’re used to, but also because I’m kind of all-Malbeced-out from my South American jaunt, and so if I’m gonna cover Malbec it’s gonna need to be a little creative.
Not that creative… look, you really need to get your mind out of the gutter, alright? It’s not even the weekend for krissakes!
So… I grabbed three Argentine Malbecs made in three totally different styles from the ever-expanding and totally-over-run-with-cardboard-boxes sample pool known as my basement, and we hit the grill for some BQ goodness to match up with it all.
My tasting experiment wasn’t without its slight disappointments, but it did yield a crowd-pleasing “sleeper” of a dessert wine – one that happens to deliver a serious amount of bang-for-the-buck, and also even more serious amounts of the “gee-I didn’t-know-they-made-this-kind-of-stuff” factor. More on that in a minute (or two).
The bubbly in this case made from Malbec, CJR’s 2008 Reginato”Celestina” Rosé of Malbec ($20), and it’s the real deal – bubbles are provided by the Chapenoise method, where the secondary fermentation takes place in bottle. This gives the wine a yeasty, toasty component to go along with its strawberry-red color and brambly red fruits. It’s not exactly a match made in heaven – the combo of rustic fruits and Champagne-style bread action is a little bit of an Odd Couple, but this bubbly is very well-made and ranks high on the novelty scale for most of us U.S.-based consumers. Worth a try if you’re a Malbec fan (or know someone who is).
Second up in the three-way Malbec rotation was the most traditional of the bunch, Budini’s 2009 Mendoza Malbec ($13). This wine, while certainly suffering from being a tasty, reasonably-priced Argentine Malbec competing for your attention amidst a sea of tasty, reasonably-priced Argentine Malbecs, is notable for two things: 1) It shows off both the jammy dark fruit side and the floral, violets-in-bloom side of Malbec (another Odd Couple combo, actually, but I think it’s also a bit of a differentiator), and 2) you can no longer actually buy it.
The thing is, the wine is no longer named Budini (short for Built Upon Dreams of Individuals Not Institutions according to the producer), for fear of possible litigation from another producer whose product starts with “Bud,” but is “made” (I use that term very loosely… maybe a better word is “assembled”) from malt, hops, yeast, water and… rice (hey, it’s right there on the label, don’t blame me if you still drink it after reading that). As of the 2010 vintage, this wine will be called somewhat appropriately, given today’s low-brow, porno-inspired theme) Bodini (“Bod” as in “Body”). For more on the scoop behind that name change, check out coverage on Dave McIntyre’s WineLine; I’ll just say that I find my utter lack of surprise in reading that news a sad testament to the state of modern U.S. litigation.
Finally, we arrive at the star of the three-way show, a wine that happens to be made by the mother of BudBodini’s winemaker Jose Lovaglio, Susana Balbo – and it’s a full-on-badge-worthy nightcap:
2009 Susana Balbo Late Harvest Malbec (Lujan de Cuyo-Agrelo)
Price: $30 (500 ml bottle)
The chances of finding someone who won’t like this wine are, I think, pretty low – it has a lot going for it, combining charm and complexity with a gluttonous sense of pure hedonism [ insert tasteless three-way reference here at your leisure ]. Being a late harvest wine, and one made from deliberately-dried grapes, it’s very sweet, but stops shy of being syrupy or cloying, and maintains enough acid that you might be rewarded by trying to find a bittersweet chocolate and dried fruits match to nibble on while you sip it. Plum and prunes are the fruits on display, but the real complexity comes from generous helpings of spices, leather, tobacco and dark chocolate aromas that are not shy about making their presences known.