While living in Boston in my early twenties, my occasional interest in wine developed into an adoration. Under the influence and guidance of my dear friends, I sipped, swirled and swished my way through the city. Much like many young people, I began by exclusively drinking white wine. The sweetest varieties, such as riesling and moscato, were my favorites. As my body aged, the sweet wines with high sugar content left me with a hangover before even falling asleep at night. In addition, my taste buds were maturing and I found myself preferring the drier whites that actually allowed me to notice the subtle differences and idiosyncrasies in the smells and sips of the grapes varietals. When it came to red wine, however, my willingness to try was always just a few steps ahead of my palate. Then, just before I turned 30, I had my first taste of a good malbec. I was out to dinner with friends on Cape Cod. They had been telling me for a while, just try it! So, I did. It was love at first sip. I attribute this to its deeper fruitier flavor. Malbec was my entry red wine but is still today my most favorite wine to enjoy with a foot of snow on the ground. Now, I am a seasonal wine drinker. This means I like red wines in the fall and winter but enjoy whites in the spring and summer. I made up that term; I wouldn't expect anyone to know what it means.
There was a lot of VERY SERIOUS research that went into the development of this post. I spent hours smelling, sipping and swishing. I made sure to taste almost every Malbec that my local wine guy sells. My guy is good and has a pretty substantial variety. I taste tested 17 different malbecs and narrowed my selection down to my Top Ate favorites.
What I look for in the store
- My target price point is between $10 and $15. If I spend less than $10, the malbec is thin and and not full-bodied. I end up disappointed and I wake up the next morning with a headache. I don't go over $15 because....well frankly, I just can't afford it! (Note, some of my Top Ate may be over $15 when purchase on the internet or in a different state.)
- Any malbec I buy absolutely positively must come from Argentina, preferably the Mendoza region. The broad temperature ranges, plateaued altitude and clay-like soil are the perfect conditions for malbec grapes. These conditions and geography produce wine with concentration and intensity, the quintessential characteristics of malbec.
What I look for when tasting
While tasting each of the each of the 17 different wines, I was looking for certain characteristics that are essential to any great malbec.
- Deep red color that is nearly opaque (almost black)
- Thicker viscosity that leaves great legs on the glass
- Fruity smoke on the nose
- Deep concentrated berry flavor with muted tannins
Each of the malbecs I've chosen exhibit these characteristics. While completing my very serious research, I partook in a couple of side-by-side blind taste tests. I used a $7-$9 bottle and a $13-$15 (pictured to the right respectively with 90+ and Ruta 22). Each time, I could tell, without even tasting the wine, which was a little pricier. I based my decision on the color and legs. Without fail, it was always the more enjoyable wine to drink.
What I like to eat while drinking malbec
There are an enormous number of resources outlining food and wine pairings. I've read some of them, but it always seems a mystery to me because each resource recommends something different! Experienced food and wine connoisseurs report that there are certain foods that will bring out the flavor of the wine or certain wines that will bring out the flavor of the food. Perhaps, my palate is not refined enough to understand it. I tend to just drink what I like and eat what I like.
- What the experts suggest: leaner red meat, blue cheese, BBQ chicken, mushrooms, pasta with red sauces
- What I like: ANY cheese smeared on a crusty bread, dark chocolate, ANY chicken dish, a juicy turkey burger, any soup or stew, anything that can be consumed while sitting on the couch under a warm fuzzy blanket
Disclaimer: I am NOT a wine expert. This post only represent my personal opinions and ideas. I just like what I like and drink what I drink!
I would love to hear what you think too though! What's your favorite type of wine? What do you like to eat it with?