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Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: Malbec is king in South America


I received an email from a reader recently asking about whether there were any really good Cabernet Sauvignon is available for under $15-$20.

I pondered this for a while and came up empty. The fact is, it's hard to find a really good Cabernet under $30, and often one needs to go higher than that. In the end I suggested some Zinfandels with good blackberry fruit and intense tannins as alternatives.

That got me thinking about fall. As I've mentioned before, I know people who do not drink red wine as a matter of principle during the summer months. I guess you would have to call me an utterly unprincipled sort: I was looking around for one recently and came across a few Malbecs that I had not seen before, and thought I would share one with you today.

Malbec is French-bred, though much of its fame now resides in the countries of South America. Malbec is still widely used in France in fact, particularly in Cahors. Malbec actually has many synonyms, by some accounts running into thousands. We'll just stick with Malbec, however.

It is in Argentina that the Malbec grape has achieved justifiable fame. Argentine wines made from Malbec tend to be a bit richer and lusher than their French counterparts. They are capable of aging. It is not an exclusively Argentine proposition though, as they are also produced in Chile, where Malbecs tend to be more tannic.

The wine we'll sample today comes from Mendoza, in western Argentina 150 or so miles across Chile from South America's Pacific coast. Mendoza is the biggest winemaking province in all of Argentina, accounting for some 70 percent of the nation's output. The overall climate in the Mendoza region is continental, meaning it has four seasons, though it does not have the extremes in temperature that can sometimes occur in Europe.2010 Cabellero de la Cepa Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina; 14% abv, $17.99, with variations by location. This is a medium intensity red with a deep core, purple throughout. It has a good clean nose of medium intensity with fruit and some vegetal aromas. The palate is dry, with medium-plus acidity, medium alcohol and flavor intensity. The flavors are true, including plum, blackberry, black cherry, toast, hints of chocolate and a slight vegetal background. It has a medium length finish. Good quality, ready to drink now, not suitable for further aging. mid-priced. 85 points.

So, if you're looking for some mid-priced reds to bring in autumn, Malbec is certainly a place to stop and spend some time.

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Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.

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