Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Malbec Battle

I've never had Malbec from France and Argentina head to head. Always meant to, but as you know....too much wine, too little time. I have to say after visiting both Cahors and Mendoza, as to which is the nicer (and more exciting) place to visit, the latter wins hands down. So, who makes the better wine? Cahors is perhaps the last stronghold of Malbec-making in Europe, Mendoza is the new star region for this varietal. We chose 3 wines, one a premium wine from Argentina that made the "top 100" list for the Wine Spectator in 2007, one from Cahors that received a "95" rating from this same magazine, and a 13 year old bottle of Cahors I found skulking about in my "cellar". This was a blind tasting. The old Cahors, the Chateau LaGrezette, 1995, was easy to pick out. Meat and mushrooms on the nose and a brick colour in the glass. Medium bodied, elegant, sour cherry, camphor...a good meat wine (it was sampled with a "cowboy" grill of lamb, steak, sausage and chicken). "Good".
I couldn't tell which was which for the other two samples. Turns out the wine most preferred was the Argentinian - the Bodega Catena Zapata, Catena Alta, Malbec, 2004. An explosion of vanilla milk chocolate on the nose, this was the silkiest, softest wine of the three. Unctuous, creamy, this goes on and on. It was definitely better than another bottle of the same sampled a few months ago (?perhaps a longer decanting helped it, but I think it was bottle variation). Wow. Pricey at $60, but if you want to sample what this grape is capable of, ante up.
The Le Cedre, Cahors, 2004 was labelled a "monstrous" malbec by the Wine Spectator. It showed loads of cherries on the nose but was also a bit medicinal. Lots of red fruit on the palate - cranberries, pomegranate, boysenberries. There was a hit of white pepper on the back palate. Quite tannic, we were probably drinking this one too early. Wow, lots to chew on here for $49, but sorry to have to say it, Argentina "officially" beats France for Malbec.


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