How do winemaking and terroir affect malbec? We put this to the test recently with a leading wine from Argentina’s Mendoza region and the Cahors in France where the grape is also known as cot.
On my trip to Mendoza earlier this year, one of the most exciting wineries I visited was the Clos de los Siete project. Seven French investors, including many wine making families such as Rothschild (Lafite) and Cuvelier (Poyferré) joined forces under the teutalage of Michel Rolland, the “flying winemaker” par excellence who is also a stakeholder. They bought a vast plot of 850 heactares (over 2000 acres) in the Val de Uco at the base of the Andes and planted a small sea of vines, mostly malbec.
Each of the families either makes or will make their own wine but collectively they pool some grapes to make the Clos de los Siete wine, available for about $15 (Find this wine). This 2003 is mostly malbec but also includes some cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and some syrah (!).
Against this wine, I poured blind the 2002 Clos la Coutale, which I bought in NYC for about $12 (Find this wine). From Cahors, the Clos La Coutale, a blend of mostly malbec with a little merlot and cab franc, is imported to the US by Kermit Lynch.
One wine exploded with rich aromas and flavors of violets, blackberries and tobacco from the glass. It had a round, soft complex mouthfeel and a good finish. The second wine was inky dark in color, and had a much more truncated flavor range with a certain tartness on the finish.
After the unveiling, wine #1 was the Clos de los Siete and wine #2 was the Cahors.
Although the malbec from Mendoza showed better that evening, a note of caution is necessary because of the 15 percent alcohol stated on the label. It’s big. The complexity would probably make a great BBQ wine for those tired of zinfandel.
This wine reminded me of a Cadillac Escalade: it’s fun to take it for a spin once, but who wants to own it and pay the gas bill? Drink too much of this one and you may be paying for it the next day.
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Now in France, I found a bottle of the Clos la Coutale 2003 and tried it. The bottle showed much better–more full-bodied, more round, more complex, and even “bigger.” Pity I couldn’t taste this much better vintage against the Clos de los Siete. Especially since I got it for 7 euros ($8.90). Ah well, I’ll throw it in a future malbec match-up with some more wines from the two regions.