Featured Wine: Doña Paula Malbec, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, 2007, $10
Being on the subject of drinking wine in a recession, as we were last week and probably shall be for a while to come, it’s pleasing to report that there are still some thoroughly decent bottles of red wine to be found for under $10. It’s just that they tend not to come from California. In this case (and in this case you can afford to buy by the case) we’re better off with a wine from South America.
Not that you would immediately know as much from looking at the Doña Paula “Los Cardos” Malbec which comes in an undistinguished label, the kind that on first glance tells you nothing much at all. On second glance, however, reading the small print, it indicates that the wine hails from Luján de Coyo in Mendoza which, as I noted the first and last time I wrote about Malbec (albeit in some detail), is that nation’s finest region for what is widely hailed as its indigenous grape. (Malbec in fact originates from both Bordeaux, where it once served as a blending grape, and South-West France, where it forms the backbone of Cahors, but it appears to have settled extraordinarily well in the hills of Argentina.)
Its origins in the foot hills of the Andes suggest that, even at the budget price of $10, the Doña Paula Malbec, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, 2007 should be well worth a swill, and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it excels. The wine itself is a saturated purple bordering on black, with massive amounts of plum, spice, blueberry and blackcurrant oozing out of the glass and into those olfactory sensory centers. That rich plummy, brambly, damsony nature then delivers a kick like a mule – albeit it a well-trained mule, the kind that nuzzles you fondly after it’s finished its hard day’s work – as it combines with some licorice, tar, coffee and mocha, saturating the palate with concentrated flavors, more than a firm touch of tannin, and no lack of a satisfying sweet finish. “Firm and juicy” I wrote in my notes, in my usual wink-wink nudge-nudge manner: I maintain that if wine is intended to be a sensual experience, it should absolutely allow itself to be defined in sexual terms too. This one is not only a cheap date; it puts out.
Having grown disappointed by the downgrade in Chilean/Argentinean wine quality in almost direct correlation to their increased availability, I was genuinely surprised by this wine. And I’m glad to see, doing some post-drinking web-searching, that I’m not alone. People whose opinions I respect have been similarly satisfied by Doña Paula Malbec’s value for money. The Rhône–loving Gang of Pour suggest that it’s “structured for at least a few years of development and maybe a few more to hold after that.” The Blue State Carpetbagger’s Red State Wine Blog (and how do you like that site for a mouthful?) says that it reminded “of a very ripe, old vine Zin from Contra Costa County like Rosenblum or Cline make.” As a major fan of both those winemakers, especially Cline, I’m inclined – ouch! – to agree. And at $10 – available at the Wine Steward in Shokan among other local Catskills retailers – it’s much cheaper than those Californian competitors.
But then bottling Malbec, especially from the geologically ideal terroir of Luján de Coyo, is not rocket science. Keep your old vines planted and well-tended, pick ‘em ripe, ferment in stainless steel, give ‘em some short sharp oak treatment, and sell to the public while the fruit is still fresh and the tannins rich and ripe. Like good Zinfandel and Syrah, Malbec serves double duty – it warms you up in colder weather, and it’s great with barbequed food in summer. As such, this wine won’t go out of style – and with its considerable backbone, nor will it quickly lose its flavor. Kudos to the business heads behind the Doña Paula brand name for making such fine wine at such a sensible price. Now, maybe they can invest the profits in a decent translation for their web site.