It may seem a little mean to call a wine “user-friendly.” But I mean it in a good way. An excellent way, in fact. I’m talking about malbec, a red wine with no hard edges, no searing acids or harsh tannins. I often compare its flavor to those chocolate-cherry bonbons.
It’s a great wine to sip by itself, and its mellow richness goes with lots of foods – from cheeseburgers to fancy French beef stew. And when it’s supplemented by firmer grapes, such as zinfandel, it can stand up to any charcoal-grilled steak.
Grown since Roman times in France, malbec came out quite sturdy, winning fame as a blending grape. It hit the world stage in 1853, when the president of Argentina had it imported to improve his country’s wine industry.
And now malbec is catching on in the world. Malbec may never reach the pinnacles of Bordeaux or Burgundy, but it’s a very nice bottle to have in your cellar.
▪ 2013 Alamos “Seleccion” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (100 percent malbec): inky hue, aromas and flavors of black raspberries and black pepper, full body, ripe tannins; $20.
▪ 2012 Layer Cake Red Wine, Mendoza, Argentina (malbec, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, petit verdot): ultra dark hue, concentrated and powerful, with aromas and flavors of blueberries, bittersweet chocolate and cinnamon; $15.
▪ 2013 Layer Cake Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (100 percent malbec): hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black raspberries and dark chocolate; $16.
2011 Bodega Vistalba “Corte C” Red Blend, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (malbec, cabernet sauvignon, bonarda): dark red hue, aromas and flavors of black cherries and dark chocolate, smooth and creamy; $18.
▪ 2013 Argento Malbec “Ficha Tecnica,” (100 percent malbec), Mendoza, Arg.: soft, smooth and rich, with aromas and flavors of black plums and coffee; $14.
▪ 2012 Niner Estate Malbec, Paso Robles (malbec, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc): dark hue, aromas and flavors of blueberries and pumpkin pie spices, firm acids and tannins; $30.
2013 Decopas Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (100 percent malbec): dark red hue, aromas and flavors of black cherries and black pepper, smooth, soft tannins; $12.
▪ 2013 Handcraft “Artisan Collection” Malbec, California (malbec, zinfandel): aromas and flavors of black plums and black coffee, smooth, ripe tannins; $12.