Malbec’s reputation has risen along with the reputation of South American wines. While Malbec is, originally, French, and is one of the six grapes that comprise the Bordeaux blend, most of the best-regarded Malbec produced in the world comes from Argentina or, to a lesser extent, Chile. A good expression of Malbec can read much like a Cabernet — thick, tannic, strong, and expressive.
Today’s Malbec comes the Viu Manent winery in Chile, and is 92 % Malbec, with 5 % Syrah and 3 % Cabernet rounding out the mix. Tasting notes indicate that the winemakers are shooting for a smooth, elegant fruit-forward wine with a hint of spice. 20% of the blend is aged in oak barrels, with the rest aging in stainless steel tanks.
How does it look? The malbec is a black cherry color, with a light body and thin legs, so I’m expecting a wine that’s light on the palate and fairly dry.
How does it smell? The Viu Manent doesn’t have a very prominent fruit on the nose — mainly some slight blackcurrant notes, along with some subtle lemon zest, and maybe cranberry. There’s not much tannin, and for a fairly young wine, there’s not much of an astringent or alcoholic aroma either, even though this wine is 13.5 percent alcohol by volume. There is no hint of the oak barrels used to age part of this wine.
But how does it taste? The wine drinks much like it smells. There are some subtle lemony notes and a loud dark berry flavor at first taste, with maybe a hint of espresso on the finish. The fruit flavors are balanced, without too much acidity or sugar. As with the nose, there’s no hint of oak on the palate. This malbec is very smooth, and finishes clean, but it’s a bit slight. (Or “elegant,” to borrow the vintner’s term.) Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of that — it’s a good wine, and even pleasant to drink. It’s just not the strongest flavor I’ve ever encountered.
What should I eat with it? This would pair well with any food you’d serve alongside a light-bodied mid-range red wine. Fruits, roasted vegetables or grilled meats would work well, but it’d be overwhelmed by cheese, a rich roast, or anything with cream in it. This wine’s profile might pair it well with dessert — chocolates, tarts or pies.