In my previous wine blog, I was banging on about Reservas (or Reserves); what they are and what characteristics they bring to the ‘wine tasting table’, as it were. The one fact which I concluded was that in Argentina a Reserva had to have some amount of time with oak maturation, the time itself was not defined by strict boundaries or rules, they can pretty much have any amount of time in oak to be classified as a higher level of wine but whatever the oak aging, be it 5 months or 3 years, there will always be one common element for all Reserva wines; oak aromas and flavors. Yes, I like to state the obvious!
In general, French oak tends to bring out softer savory notes, while American oak shows an intensely sweet side. In vain, I always hope that the guests at our Buenos Aires wine tastings will take that piece of information and extract their poetical wine snob that lies within but more often than not, I remain the sole contender for the position, imparting with a barrage of flowery descriptive passages; generally, and unsurprisingly, people are more interested in why we use American and French oak? What does oak do to wine?
Commercially speaking, we find French and American Oak the most commonly used for barrels in the wine market today. Their porous nature allows for the correct levels of evaporation (of mostly water and alcohol) and oxygenation to take place without causing over oxidization or spoilage. Essentially, this evaporation process brings concentration of flavor and aroma compounds to wine, while the oxygen softens any gripping tannins that are present. The oak itself contains phenols which react with wine, creating sweeter aromas while oak’s hydrolysable tannins protect the wine from oxidation and reduction. Phew; enough big words for one day! Other oaks have been known to be used in the wine making process such as Hungarian, Baltic and notably Slovakian oak for Italian wines but the none can match the interesting variety of notes that American and French oak produce; cinnamon, cloves, smoke, earthiness, chocolate, vanilla, dried tobacco, coffee beans, nutmeg, coconut, walnuts…the list is endless.
So time to get my lips wrapped around a wine glass to continue tasting Argentine winery Las Perdices’ Reserva line; their 2010 Malbec! Like the Bonarda, the Malbec Reserva has had 12 months in both American and French Oak and is a 10,000 bottle production. This should be a wine with a few interesting and diverse descriptors for this little wine snob to play with. The colour was classic Malbec, deep regal purple with brilliant reflections of plum red, and while the aroma wasn’t as potent as the Bonarda there was just as much for me to get my nose into. Deep, dark, juicy berries, black cherries and plum took the forefront of the aroma; with some flinty minerality and floral lilac sneaking in behind and finally a touch of cedar with exotic paprika spice, which for me, was a fascinating aroma. In the mouth, it was rounded, smooth and supple as all high quality Malbecs should be along with an intense and luxurious flavor, however it was not such an interesting surprise as the nose was; classic red and black plum, with a meaty woody finish that lingered for a delightful amount of time. I guess the next question is, what does the varietal Malbec taste like then….?
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