By Margaret Snook, May 4, 2009
Here’s a new one. Sparkling wine made from Chardonnay with 20% Malbec in the mix. Interesting! Leave it to the Argentines—the only thing they love more than sparkling wines is their Malbec, so why not put them together?
In case you’re wondering, no, it’s not red…not even pink… just slightly orangeier than normal. No surprise there though, Champagne has been made with Pinot Noir forever without it being rose. Note to wine geeks: feel free to skip over the next paragraph.
The color of red wine comes from the grape skins—take a look the next time you nibble a grape—dark on the outside, light on the inside! The trick with wine is that the longer the wine remains in contact with the skins, the more color (and tannins) it will pick up, so by reverse logic, it’s also easy enough to make a white wine from red grapes just by separating the juice (called “must”) from the skins and treating it the same as the must from white grapes.
Since wine made from red grapes (with or without their skins) have more body and structure, including them in a sparkling wine results in a wine with more character, one that is more than just a light appetizer wine, one that can hold its own at the table with all kinds of foods.
I’m not saying this will hold up to a gaucho’s thick and juicy bife chorizo like a Malbec would, but it could certainly get me in the mood! Truth be told though, the jury’s still out on this one. I can’t quite decide, although my husband—definitely not a sparkling-friendly type—is pretty impressed. Let’s go step by step:
The color is a deep, slightly amberish-yellow that portend s either something oddly oxidized (not the case) or with more body than usual (is the case). The bubbles are fine enough, and since the bottle doesn’t say methode champenoise anywhere, I assume it was made by the less elaborate charmat method that can tend to produce big and clumsy bubbles, which is certainly not an issue here.
Aromatically speaking, it issues forth plenty of yeasty aromas and the expected bit of apple, but there’s something very different going on in this glass—there are some very unexpected grassy, earthy, dry leafy, maybe even tobaccoey notes (ok, that’s the beauty of mixing English with wine—I get to invent words—and once you try the wine, you’ll understand them!). This is work of Malbec.
But the truth is in the tasting, and it all holds up there. It’s got structure, it’s got body, it’s got just the right fizz to put a bit of jazz in your mouth with that explosive sensation that some charmats produce. It refreshes, it sparks the appetite… but not for any typical kind of appetizers, no, I want something heartier. Charqui comes to mind—a special kind of horse jerky made here in Chile that can be made into incredibly tasty appetizers. But on the more down-to-earth side, how about a chicken liver pâté on toast, hummus on pita, bacon-wrapped scallop skewers, cold lentil salad with bacon bits (or not)… you get the idea…
As an aside: they could do themselves a favor and work on the label. They’ve mixed black with an iridescent pearl paper and small red, gold, and silver lettering. I’m sure it’s meant to be elegant, but sorry, doesn’t cut it. The effect is cold, wordy and hard to read… too much work sends me on to the next bottle on the shelf.
Denomination of Origin: Mendoza Argentina