Malbec’s not quite as well-known as its fellow Bourdeaux blend-mates merlot or cabernet sauvignon, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a wine. The grapes of this vine can produce wines just as complex and full-bodied as its brethren. We review malbecs regularly, and have written somewhat recently about malbec from Argentina, the category tonight’s wine falls under.
Tonight’s bottle, a 2011 Agua de Piedra Malbec, from the Daniel Fernandez vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina, doesn’t have much of an online presence. The label tells us the name (which translates to “water from a stone”) is a half-joking reference to the incredibly rocky soil of the Fernandez vineyards — soil so rocky that the vintners wonder how the vines find the water to survive. In actuality, the vineyards, situated in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, receive plenty of water from the snow that melts off the mountains.
How does it look? This malbec is a dark ruby red that, when swirled, reveals thick, short legs, suggesting we’re going to get a wine that’s somewhat sweet, but light-bodied.
How does it smell? The Agua de Piedra’s nose contains a lot of ripe fruit flavors — plum mostly, with maybe a hint of ripe strawberry. A light, breezy herbal scent — maybe rosemary, or basil — combines nicely with the sweet fruit notes. All that’s surprising, considering how tannic malbecs can usually be. Not a lot of tannin to speak of, and despite the wine’s 13 percent alcohol content, the nose isn’t that boozy, either.
But how does it taste? The flavor’s much more spice than herb — the first sip of this wine feels like chewing a mouthful of nutmeg, with a few raisins mixed in. That spicy flavor overwhelms the fruit that was so prominent on the nose, and almost burns like cinnamon on the finish. The tannins don’t really show up outside of that spice flavor, though, making this a relatively smooth malbec. This malbec is characteristically astringent, which would help it stand up to richer foods than the flavor could otherwise handle. This is a fun, flavorful wine, worth well over the $10 I spent on it.
What should I eat with it? Meat or pasta, for the most part. The spicy sweetness of this red would pair it well with rich Asian food or any other flavorful cuisine with a bit of spice to it. (Jerk steak tips, maybe, or a pasta fra diabolo.)