I get it all the time at our Argentina wine tastings: ‘What is the point of a blend?? You just showed us a great 100% Argentinean Malbec, why would you need to blend a mixture grapes together if you can make wonderful wine from one grape??’ It is a valid question and not surprising to see such skepticism when some mega wineries in the United States and Australia have, unfortunately, been known to use all their lower quality surplus grapes to throw into one big tank and make some poor excuse for a wine. Money, money, money.
The real idea for producing a blend is actually, believe it or not, to create a superior wine. Each grape in the wine world is known for its common characteristics, as well as having additional traits that vary from country to country or climate to climate (terroir!). There are always redeeming qualities within each grape, but they will never be ‘complete’. This might sound like a bunch of guff, like I’ve been watching too much Jerry Maguire…
I promise it makes sense. The most common blend we see here in Argentina is Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon and for good reason too. Malbec, as I am sure I have pointed out a million times by now, is a grape that is known for its ripe red fruit characteristics, its deep purple colour and it wonderful supple rounded body, amongst other traits. It sometimes lacks the strength of tannins, deep black fruits and berries, blackcurrant leaf and sometimes spice, which you can more readily find in Cabernet Sauvignon. In turn, Cabernet Sauvignon certainly can lack the finesse that Malbec possesses….so when you bring these two together you are literally combining the best of the grapes to make very pretty (tasty) babies. Of course, each winemaker will have an influence on the different outcomes and tastes of the wine depending on the percentage of grapes used, the quality of those grapes and the amount of time in oak, but the basic rules apply.
Best to find some examples to illustrate my point, starting with Carinae’s Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 made with 72% Malbec and 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, of which 45% has had 10 months in French oak. Carinae’s grapes were harvested from two of their vineyards with 90 year old vines based in Perdriel, Lujan de Cuyo and Cruz de Piedra, Maipu both extremely prestigious areas in Mendoza, Argentina producing only 16,000 bottles.
The colour of this baby is still electric violet but so opaque that on first appearance I actually thought it was black, oh typical Malbec! The aroma certainly gave away those tell-tale signs that the predominant grape was Malbec too, there was plenty of red fruits in there; raspberries, goji berries and a hint of something darker like boysenberries (oh hello Cabernet Sauvignon, there you are). After 5 minutes of air time out crept the previously closed delicate oak characteristics and took me right back to my travelling days in India; spices galore! Dried ginger, nutmeg, saffron, red and black pepper. There was also just a touch of candied hard boiled sweets, like rhubarb and custard sweets. Ahhh, penny sweets! Who would have known what nostalgia could be contained inside one glass bottle!
The mouth was quite surprising, I thought that I would find more of those fruits but it was pure spice, which smacked quite hard on the finish. I (an avid fan of anything spicy), was enamored but it was too much for Senor Rico’s palate, who is your typical Porteno that thinks black pepper is fire in his mouth. The medium to full body’s mouth-feel brought out the best elements of the two grapes; superb soft roundedness on the entrance followed by a delightful tannic grip making its way down my tongue, perfect for the rich creamy Lasagna that Senor Rico had prepared! The tangible acidity was softened by the tomato based sauce, which incidentally contained bountiful amount of herbs matching the aromatic spicy side of the wine nicely. Not to mention the proteins in the beef smoothing out that tannic grip. Delightful.
So there we have it, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon (plus skillful winemakers!!) is a match made in heaven. What other blends are out there?
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