She says: There it is… The Clos de Chacras at dinner… and getting a kiss?? Seriously nutty woman.
Black Wine: Malbec Wines from Cahors Region in France Rise Again
She says: What is “black wine” ? Black wine is a malbec wine from the region of Cahors, France which has such a deep purple color and is 99% opaque, so that you cannot see through it. Those of you fond of eyeing your wine tasting friends through the rosey lens of your filled glass will find that it is not possible to see them through the “black wine”.
Tell me more you say? While on a recent trip to France, I learned that this Cahors region of southern France is also the original birth place of the malbec grape. I didn’t know that, did you?
He Says: Actually, yes, I did know. According to Jancis Robinson, malbec likely originated in Burgundy and was once widely grown in Bordeaux and all throughout France. But the grape is susceptible to frost, mildew, rot and other nasty things, so most malbec vines have been ripped up and replaced with other more reliable and productive vines. Today in France, malbec is most widely grown in the Cahors region.
She Says: The Cahors wine region, where our “black wine” comes from, is legendary with history going back to 50 BC (over two thousand years old, my friends). The Malbec vines have been wiped out a few times by frosts and/or that pesky phylloxera (as He refers to above) but you can read a much more thorough history of the Cahors France wine region here.
Imagine my delight when we returned home and a few weeks later learned that a short film about the black truffles and the black wine of the Cahor’s region, “The Scent of Black”, was awarded The James Beard award. The film comes from the incredibly talented team at Grape Radio. Watch the film when you can. Just 12 minutes – we’ve posted it for you here. We trust you will enjoy the film.
He Says: To be a Cahors malbec, the blend must be at least 70% malbec. It is often mixed with merlot, another soft and fruity grape. And yes, the color of the wine is as close to black as you will find.
Here are the two Cahors Malbecs we tasted:
Black Wine: Malbec Wine from Cahors, France: Pigmentum 2008 Malbec, Georges Vigouroux $8
He says: Try a cross cultural tasting of your own. If you’re into malbecs, try the 2007 Chateau de Mercues from Cahors alongside one or two from Argentina. You’ll notice some pronounced differences in the wines. The Argentine malbecs are not as dark in color – more of a deep purple – and burst through with more fruit and richer, more approachable flavors. Taste both and let us know, which region do you prefer? Leave a comment in the comments section.
Black Wine: Malbec Wine from Cahors, France: Chateau de Mercues, 2007 Malbec, Georges Vigouroux $19
He and She both say: We had a unique opportunity to taste two “Black Wines” from the Cahors region of France. Black Wine is the name given to the merlots from this ancient wine region. It’s fascinating and a little mysterious. There’s even a short film about the region at this link. More information about the history of the Black Wine here. http://wp.me/p9Qfi-mN
He says: This bottle came from the same winery, but was significantly better than the Pigmentum malbec. It had an inky purple color and dusty, leathery nose. The flavors were dark fruits, prunes and leather. It had medium tannins but could be enjoyed now or sit a couple of years. (In general, malbecs don’t age very well). A very nice wine, worthy of a 15 score.
She says: You, my friend, can stop by for a drink anytime.
Served with: Roasted chicken sausage and roasted summer vegetables.
Black Wine: Pigmentum 2008 Malbec, Georges Vigouroux $8
He and She both say: We had a unique opportunity to learn about the “black wine” from Cahors. You can read more about our discovery here and watch a short film about “The Scent of Black” referring to truffles and wines from Cahors France. http://wp.me/p9Qfi-mN
He says: This Cahors malbec was very dark in color, indicative of the black wine of Cahors. It was easy to drink, but didn’t really display many of the characteristics I’ve come to associate with malbecs from Argentina. It was OK, but nothing special. Then again, it only cost $8. I gave it a 13.
She says: You’re hot. But that doesn’t give you permission to slap me.
Served with: Grilled spicy chicken sausage and grilled summer vegetables – corn, asparagus, green peppers. Perfect. If you can find black truffles from the region – do it!
HE SAYS: Our second visit in Luján de Cuyo was at Bodega Carmelo Patti, another boutique winery. Carmelo comes from the old school of wine making and clearly enjoys what he is doing. He’s very warm and friendly and a gracious host. He doesn’t speak much English – and we didn’t speak much Spanish – but we managed to understand most of what he was saying because of the context. (SHE INTERJECTS: he used a little Italian to make it easier on me.)
Carmelo basically runs a one-man operation, doing most of the work himself and hiring help at harvest season and when it’s time to bottle the wine. So he oversees the vineyards, winemaking, bottling and even acts as tour guide. He showed us his cement fermentation tanks and barrel and bottle storage areas and and gave us a terrific barrel sample.
And how many red wine specialists do you know who also make a fine sparkling wine from pinot noir and chardonnay in the method champenoise, but we didn’t get to sample that. The tasting was free and it was definitely worth a visit.
SHE SAYS: What a doll. If you are in Mendoza area, you absolutely MUST visit Carmello Patti. Charming, funny and very, very gracious. He acts as if he’s known you his entire life. He has Spanish & Italian heritage and all the gracious qualities of both cultures live in Carmello.
Every fantasy you’ve ever had about touring an old, classic wine-making facility will come true here. Walking down dark narrow hallways, sounds of your footsteps on cement walkways in those hallways, colors of cabernet, putty, beiges, golds, wood accents, the sounds of the master winemaker talking to you in another language, the smell of the oak barrels, a little taste from the barrel - if this is a dream do NOT wake me up – repeat – do NOT wake me up.
2003 Carmelo Patti Cabernet Sauvignon –
HE SAYS: This wine is just being released after about four years of aging. It has a big nose and medium body, with a bit of acid and tannin. He recommended drinking it by 2013. 14+
2004 Carmelo Patti Malbec –
HE SAYS: A big and fruity Malbec that was aged 40% in French oak and 60% in concrete. It has medium high tannin, so it needs some age to soften. But once again, Carmelo said to drink it by 2013. Very good. 15
SHE SAYS: Aging in concrete – you must see this. You must.
2002 Carmelo Patti Gran Assemblage – Carmelo makes this wine only in years where the quality of the grapes merit it. So he’s produced an ’02, ’03, ’04 and ’08 recently. Carmelo wrote that it was 47% Cab, 24% Malbec, 19% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc. Well, that comes out to just 98%, and frankly my Spanish was too basic to inquire about the missing 2%. Regardless, what’s in the bottle is terrific. The Gran Assemblage is a BIG and bold wine. Berry and cherry flavors predominate. Very complex with medium high tannins and a decent kick of acid still. It ages one year in oak and 4 years in the bottle, and he says once again to drink by 2013. 16
SHE SAYS: Want to feel really good? Like you are in love? Then click the link right here and go to the Clos de Chacras website. Listen to the music while you read what we’ve written about this Bodega.
HE SAYS: This is another boutique winery in the city of Chacras de Coria in the Luján de Cuyo area. Bautista Gargantini was one of the fathers of the Argentine wine industry in Mendoza. By 1911, their winery ranked as one of the world’s leading producers. In 1921 they opened a facility in Chacras de Coria, but it was later sold. Then in 1987, Bautista’s granddaughter Silvia Gargantini, and her husband, Alejandro Genoud, purchased it. Some remodeling and updating was required, but beyond that the approval process took an astounding 17 years and they just reopened in 2003. Well, it was well worth the wait.
SHE SAYS: It’s not very often that someone has the patience to wait for 17 years to create something they love, but here you will see and feel the value of those 17 years. The preservation of their history and the permanence of their long-term choices for the life of their winery are seen and felt in every corner.
HE SAYS: We were lucky again and received a private tour of their old wine-making facility and saw some of the new improvements. Their old cement fermentation tanks are located underground, and the original gate that is reflected on their bottles is still there in the bottle storage area.
They have long-term contracts to purchase grapes from the nearby Maipú area and the La Consulta and La Carrodilla areas in the Uco Valley. They make two lines – Cavas de Crianza, with Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet varietals, plus a blend of the three – and Gran Estirpe, their premium Malbec wine. We paid about about $10 US each for the tour and tasting, which included cheese and crackers.
SHE SAYS: The 2004 Gran Estirpe is why we are here. When we tasted the Gran Estirpe at Vines of Mendoza, we knew we had to visit Clos de Chacras. Seek the Gran Estirpe.
2006 Cavas de Crianza Malbec –
HE SAYS: Gorgeously purple colored Malbec from the Maipú region, with fruity and soft flavors. It shows great balance and is very smooth and has a wonderful mouth feel. This sold for about $30 Argentine pesos, or less than about $10 U.S. This is a great wine and a tremendous value. 15+
SHE SAYS: This is our forth winery of the day. I can tell you this one is beautiful, but I have no more words than that.
2005 Cavas de Crianza Cabernet –
HE SAYS: This also comes from Maipú and was deep and dark, with an earthy component to it. It is very good and very complex. It can age for about 5 or 6 years they think. Also a great value at around $10. 15
SHE SAYS: This one makes me cry. In a good way.
2005 Cavas de Crianza Blend –
HE SAYS: A blend of 40% Malbec and 30% each of Cab and Merlot. It was nice, had medium tannins, but was not as distinguished as the Cab or Malbec. As I recall, the blend costs just a bit more. 14
SHE SAYS: I am tired. I will trust you on this one.
2004 Gran Estirpe Malbec –
HE SAYS: We tasted this through the Vines of Mendoza. The grapes for this Malbec come from 100-year-old vines in Lunlunta (Maipú) in the Luján de Cuyo area. It has brilliant purple color and a full mouth feel, soft and warm like a warm brie. This Malbec has merlot and cabernet and was one of the best malbecs I tasted. They only produced 6,100 bottles and it has won a few awards, so it is well worth seeking out. Really delicious. 16+
SHE SAYS: Seek the Gran Estirpe. Since they make only 6,000 bottles, this will not be a part of your scheduled tasting. Just buy a bottle and take it home with you. You will have no regrets.
HE SAYS: We made our first stop in Luján de Cuyo at Achaval-Ferrer, a boutique winery that has
garnered much acclaim. Argentinians Santiago Achával Becu and Manuel Ferrer Minetti have teamed up with Italian winemaker Robert Cipresso. They strive to craft wines of the highest quality that show off the grapes and terroir of the region. They ferment their wine in giant cement tanks and then age in oak barrels. I highly recommend visiting them if you go to Mendoza as their tour was one of the most informative I’ve ever had and their wines are truly wonderful. The tasting is free with the tour.
2008 Achaval Ferrer Quimera (Barrel sample)
– HE SAYS:A blend of Malbec, Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. The color was a quite pretty purple, but the tannin and oak in the wine mask the fruit right now. The ’08 vintage was marked with lots of rain in February, then nice weather through harvest in March and early April, so it will be interesting to see how the wine develops. Our guide mentioned the Quimera’s can be stored for up to 15 years.
SHE SAYS: This is a young and happy wine – pucker up, baby!
2006 Achaval Ferrer Quimera – HE SAYS: This blend has very good fruit flavors and medium tannins. The Quimera blend changes each year, depending on the quality of the individual varietals. The winery said it could age for up to 15 years because of it’s solid structure. 15+
SHE SAYS: Strong, friendly and warm – and if you’re still strong, friendly and warm in 15 years, we’ll talk.
2008 Achaval Ferrer Finca Mirador Malbec (Barrel sample) – HE SAYS: Achaval Ferrer has three vineyards in Mendoza and thus makes three single vineyard wines to show off the terroir of each one. Mirador is the lowest of the three at 2,400 feet elevation. It lies along the West bank of the Tunuyan River in the Medrano region and has stony clay soil. This wine had only been in the barrel 6 months, and has another year to go. It is 100% Malbec and had an amazing deep purple color and violet nose. The wine was soft and approachable – very delicious. 15+
SHE SAYS: Simple & friendly.
2008 Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira Malbec (Barrel sample) – HE SAYS: Altamira is the highest of the three vineyards at 3,400 feet elevation. It’s from a vineyard in the La Consulta region of the Uco Valley, which is maybe 75 miles south of the bodega. The warm days and cool nights of the Uco Valley help the grapes develop thicker skins, which increases the aromas, body and tannins. This barrel sample also had been aging only 6 months and had another year to go. Also 100% Malbec, it was nice and smooth, with a touch of lemony acid to it. “Sexy and sensual” is how they appropriately describe it. 16+
SHE SAYS: You better be lookin’ at me when you say “sexy and sensual” big guy. This one is yummy, if a little tight.
2006 Achaval Ferrer Dolce – HE SAYS: This dessert wine is a Malbec that they harvest and then they let the grapes dry out to concentrate the sugars in raisin form. It was soft and very sensual, but also very intense. Just 16% alcohol, and not too sweet. All seven of us in the tasting room really loved this wine, which can age for 15 years. A truly unique and memorable wine. Unfortunately this wine is only available from the winery for about $40 for 500 ml, so it’s going to be difficult to track down. 17
SHE SAYS: Mmmmmm… you scrumptious thing, you. We brought home 2 bottles and if you want a sip, well, I have a long list of house chores for you and when you’re finished, you can have a glass of Dolce.
Visit online at www.achaval-ferrer.com
Vines of Mendoza was our first stop for tasting in Mendoza Wine Country. Here are some comments from 7 wines we tasted at the Vines of Mendoza. Many thanks to Pablo who helped arrange some appointments at wineries in Mendoza while we were there.
2005 Mairena Bonarda – HE SAYS: This was my first sampling of Bonarda, which is abundantly grown in Argentina. In the past, it was often used to add color in blends of syrah or for inexpensive wines, but with better techniques many winemakers are realizing the potential of this grape. This wine reveals many cranberry flavors. It’s a bit dry and a tad bitter because of the tannins, but it has a good body. 14+
SHE SAYS: I’m so happy to meet a new grape! You are yummy, and you just meet so few new grapes these days.
2005 Cinco Tierras Malbec Clasico – HE SAYS: The Banfi family of wineries owns Cinco Tierras and the Italian influence is present in this Malbec. It is a very smoky wine from the higher toast they use on their barrels. The wine is dry, without big flavors. Not flashy, but well made. 13+
SHE SAYS: Smokey wines are soooo sexy.
2002 Gentile Collins Gran Syrah – HE SAYS: I’m sorry to say, this was the worst syrah I’ve ever tasted. It didn’t even taste like a syrah. It has a port-like smell, but while it’s not sweet, it just had a really odd flavor. I don’t know if that style is intentional or because syrah doesn’t grow well in Argentina, but all I could say was “Ugghh!” 10
SHE SAYS: Lighten up – it’s fine.
2002 Hacienda del Plata Cabernet Sauvignon – HE SAYS: This wine had nice body, berry flavors and a medium amount of acid. It was pretty evenly split between stainless steel, French Oak and American oak. Perfectly drinkable, but not wow. 14
SHE SAYS: Don’t bother me. I’m busy eating this CHEESE! (Vines of Mendoza will serve you extraordinary and memorable cheeses with your wine.)
2005 Pulenta Estate Merlot – HE SAYS: This Merlot was very, very good. It’s well balanced and has a long finish. The wine was fermemented in oak vats and aged in small barrels and was one of the best Merlots I tasted all trip. 15+
SHE SAYS: Oh God, they gave me Proscuitto, too. The wine is all yours, honey.
2006 Bressia Monteagrelo Malbec – HE SAYS: This wine was made by Walter Bressia, who has struck out on his own after making Argentine wines for about 30 years, including for Bodega Vistalba and Viniterra. His winemaking skills are evident in this lovely Malbec, which is a blend from five vineyards and was aged in French oak. It has a great color, good body, nice balance and has a nice soft, smooth finish. The tannins are low, so you’d want to drink it soon. 15+
SHE SAYS: There’s wild boar on my plate, too. You stay busy with that wine. They have given me food from the gods.
2004 Gran Estirpe Malbec (by Clos de Chacras) – HE SAYS: The grapes for this Malbec come from 100-year-old vines in Lunlunta (Maipú) in the Luján de Cuyo area. It has brilliant purple color and a full mouth feel, soft and warm like a warm brie. This Malbec has merlot and cabernet and was one of the best malbecs I tasted. They only produced 6,100 bottles and it has won a few awards, so it is well worth seeking out. The wine is produced by Clos de Chacras, a boutique bodega who we visited in Luján de Cuyo. Really delicious. 16+
SHE SAYS: I’m finished eating. Oooooh – this is a happy wine. Take me to the people who made this wine.