Friday, September 9, 2016

2013 Antigal Winery & Estates UNO Malbec: Dark & Brooding

 "Malbec should express place, not the grape.”
--Jose Zuccardi of Familia Zuccardi

Malbec is the signature red grape of Argentina, and the grape which has brought much fame to the region. Known by numerous other names, such as Auxerrois, Côt Noir and Pressac, Malbec was first introduced into Argentina in the mid-19th century, prior to phyollexera. The cuttings came from the Bordeaux region of France, not Cahors, the French region most known for its Malbec. Argentina possesses plenty of old vines of Malbec, including some over 100 years old. It is currently their most planted grape, and there are about 22 recognized clones of Malbec.

Malbec can often be characterized as having an intense dark color, aromas and flavors of cherry, plum and strawberry, and soft tannins. However, Malbec is not a singular grape, and can express itself in many different profiles, especially due to terroir. Malbec has the potential to age well, and pairs well with meats, pastas, pizza, and other foods. Until the early 1990s, Argentina mainly used Malbec as a blending grape, but then they began creating single varietal wines, discovering its great potential. Numerous low cost Malbec wines started to get exported and wine consumers embraced them, helping to put Argentina on the international wine map.

Wineries have started to concentrate on terroir, a sense of place, in producing their Malbecs. They have found that Malbec presents many different expressions dependent upon the terroir. Some wineries, like Altos Las Hormigas, feel the soil is the most important element of Malbec terroir while others, like Bodega Catena Zapata, feel that altitude is the key. Experimentation and research continue into this issue, and it is the future of the wines of Argentina. Though you will continue to find inexpensive Malbec wines, you will begin to see more and more higher-end Malbecs, those indicative of terroir.

The Antigal Winery & Estates is located in Russell, Maipú, the site of a historic winery that dates back to 1897. Founded by the Peiro family, they bought vineyards in the Tupungato region of the Uco Valley. Antigal possesses a state-of-the-art facility, with a gravity-flow platform system and the capacity to produce 1.2 million liters of wine. The winery has both stainless steel tanks and concrete vats, the the concrete specifically designed for fermenting small amounts of wine so they can concentrate on specific representations of their grapes.

I received a media sample of the 2013 Antigal Uno Malbec ($18), which is produced from 100% Malbec, has a 13.9% ABV, and spent 8-10 months in French and American oak. This was a dark and brooding wine, an elegantly muscular wine that yearns to join a hearty steak, grilled meats or even a hearty pasta dish. With a dark red color, the nose presents pleasing black fruit aromas, accented by mild spice and herbal notes. On the palate, it is big and bold, yet the velvety tannins are well integrated. There are rich and juicy flavors of ripe plum and blackberry with intriguing hints of spice and savory herbs. This isn't a simple and easy drinking Malbec but rather one with more import, a Malbec intended for food pairing. It is delicious, complex and reasonably priced for its quality.

There's still time for some backyard grilling, and the 2013 Antigal Uno Malbec would serve you well.

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