Thursday, May 2, 2013

SideTrip: Argentine Malbec

I'll still call this a SideTrip despite the fact that many Italians have immigrated to Argentina, many consulting winemakers in Argentina are Italian and the Pope himself is Argentinian.  Nevertheless, that's my tie in!

There are certain wine regions in the world you can look to for expertise with specific varietals.  Like Montalcino masters Sangiovese and Piedmont masters Nebbiolo,  Argentina produces Malbec that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.

As an homage to the new Padre,  we dedicated an evening to Argentine inspired food and wine, with of course, a slight Italian twist.   There was a dual feature of sorts - a gorgeous Angus Tri-Tip steak and an inky Mendoza Malbec.

The 2010 Luca Malbec is sourced from hillside fruit in Mendoza. The vineyards are in the Uco Valley region, at 3,000-5,000 feet elevation and are full of craggly old vines, some of which are 50-75 years of age. The intensity of these conditions exhibits themselves markedly in the wine.

In the decanter, the wine is a dark, blackish purple color.  There was some significant coffee grind like sediment that was removed.  The aromas of the wine are intense, perfumed and complex. They vary widely, from rich blackberry, to licorice, menthol, eucalyptus, and leather.  On the palate, the wine is vibrant, juicy and fresh.  Intense black fruit aromas are accentuated by leather, licorice, mineral, chalk and salinity.  There's an air of mountain fresh herbs to this that's hard to describe but that quality of the wine played well off the improvised Chimichurri that I created for the steak.  This is delicious stuff, and a tremendous value. 93 points about $24. 

Inky Black Purple Malbec from Mendoza Argentina

We served this along side a grilled Tri-Tip steak.  I had never done a Tri-Tip before and the best way I can describe it for those that aren't familiar is that it's like a London Broil, only much better.  The only instructions are to cook it no more than medium rare and to slice it against the grain.  The meat is very lean, so beyond med. rare dries the meat to the point of toughness.  

I made an Italian version of Chimichurri since I was devoid of both parsley and cilantro.  The results were never the less outstanding with the char of the steak. 

Basil Chimichurri

1 cup basil, packed tightly
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Pinch crushed red pepper 
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients and pulse in a food processor.  You'll get a thick, bright green, sauce to drizzle over the meat.  It's full of flavor and absolutely delicious.  I will be using this again on my next Fiorentina. 

The finished Tri-Tip.  Slice across the meat, with the "point" of the Triangle to your right and you'll always slice across the grain.  Note the color of the narrowest part of meat.  The middle was a perfect rare.

A presto!


  1. John, this is all very interesting, but I have a couple of questions: 2010 Malbec with all that sediment, a young wine like that, was it unfiltered?
    How well does a good Malbec age?
    Basic I know, but Malbec is not a wine I've had much experience with, as it seemed too floral for me, but one day I intend to dig into this varietal!

  2. Dennis,

    I do believe that this wine was unfiltered, but I'm not certain and will have to check. I've had young wines throw sediment before. I just had a 2011 Dolcetto that did! I don't particularly think Malbecs are more floral than other wines, but at any rate, I like floral aromatics as long as they are not reminiscent of fake perfume. (or candied)

    I think Malbecs like this one could easily "last" 5 years or so in the cellar. That said, I don't think they need it because they're so nice with red meat when young. That's how I treat them. But I don't see any reason why these wines won't cellar well. I don't know what they'd mature into, but it would be an interesting experiment.