Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2010 Tikal Natural Malbec: Ernesto & Llamas

Have you ever sipped a wine that reminded you of llamas? Recently, I did and it is not as unusual as it may sound.

Last spring, I traveled to Argentina and met Ernesto Catena, the son of the renowned Nicolás Catena Zapata, and you can read of that encounter in Alma Negra: A Japanese Aesthetic in Argentina. Ernesto is quite the character, and definitely an intelligent and passionate man. One of his projects involves the Tikal Wines, which have been undergoing some significant changes within the last few years. In 2009, Ernesto produced his first Tikal Natural, a wine made from organically certified grapes, but his ultimate goal is to have his first biodynamic harvest in 2012.

I received a sample of the 2010 Tikal Natural Malbec (around $20) and decided to open it with a hearty dinner of Shepherd's Pie. As I opened the wine, it brought back to mind my visit with Ernesto, and all the llamas that wandered freely over the property. I recalled dining on freshly grilled meats as I watched the llamas gathered in the Mayan ball court. Such a pleasant memory.

Now for a little technical data for the wine geeks. This wine is made from 100% Malbec, grown at an elevation of 3215 feet, and the average age of the vines is about 12 years. It spent about a year in oak, mostly second-use French oak, with a small portion of American oak. About 3200 cases of this wine were produced and it only has an alcohol content of 14%. But most importantly, it is a delicious, excellent value wine.

With a dark purple color, the flavors of the wine burst into your mouth, a pleasant blend of ripe plum, dark cherry, intense spice and bits of mocha. The tannins are moderate, there is good acidity, and the finish is long and satisfying. It went very well with the Shepherd's Pie, and would go well with burgers and steaks, or even a hearty pasta dish. This is a wine of character, setting it apart from many other wines at this price point. I really enjoyed this wine and definitely recommend it.

I was not alone in my thoughts about this wine, as a few others who drank this with me had a similar reaction, though without the llama flashbacks. So my feelings about this wine were not merely colored by my prior experiences in Argentina. The memories appear to be only a pleasant side effect of this delicious wine.

No comments: