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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Malbec in NZ

The red Malbec grape hails from the Bordeaux region of France, where it was a constituent ingredient in the famous Bordeaux blends along with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. But over the years it has become a minority grape in the region and plantings have decreased. East of Bordeaux in the Cahors region (where it is also known as Auxerrois) it is still hanging in there as a principal grape variety. Mais Je digress …

The most famous 100% Malbec wines today are those from Argentina, particularly from the Mendoza region. In 1852, Malbec was brought to Argentina by Michel Pouget, a French viticulture expert who was hired by the Argentine government. Smart move. Argentina is now the main producer of Malbec, with 77,000 acres of vineyards planted, compared to second largest producer France (13,000 acres). Italy, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand and the USA grow smaller amounts. In some Argentine regions Malbec wines have a Controlled Denomination of Origin (DOC) certification, which helps to protect the name of the region and obliges winemakers to maintain quality standards.

In France, Malbec tends to be intensely dark, dry and tannic, whereas the New World style is often medium bodied and ripe, juicy and spicy with sweet black berry fruit flavours and medium tannins.  In New Zealand, Argentine Malbecs retail at about $15 for easy drinking Pizza/Pasta quaffers, then they head upward to $50 and beyond for the renowned DOC labels.
Food matches: Great right now with hearty winter casseroles and roast meats.  Also a good match with Italian tomato and garlic based sauces. 

Here’s a selection at random from a local wine shop, from light to full-bodied.

Finca Flichman Roble Malbec 2013 $12.00
Garnet red colour. Aromas of allspice and anise, with light body and flavours of cherry and plum.  Good easy drinking red.

Matawhero Church House Gisborne Malbec 2013 $28.00
Crimson colour. Restrained aromas of spicy oak with a whiff of fruitcake.
On the palate - medium youngish tannins and sweet ripe dark berry fruit and plum flavours. Drinking very well right now, but will benefit from 2-3 years cellaring. 

Chakana Estate Malbec 2012 $ $19.00
This is a big wine. Sealed with a cork closure (unlike the previous two under screw cap). Deep ruby red and opaque. Savoury oak aromas with hints of roast meat and some mature bottle age characters. In the mouth – ripe and spicy with flavours of cassis, chocolate and liquorice with medium tannins and a lengthy finish.  


Phil Parker runs the best Auckland winery tours known to mankind

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