A Truly Special Malbec

A Truly Special Malbec

Posted on May, 13. 2010 by

Categories: Wine

Today’s offer is another top choice from my recent tour of trade tastings. This one is from Elite Wines‘ event a couple of weeks ago, and was most unexpected. As I was heading for the door after a long day of tasting 50+ wines from around the world, I happened to pass by a couple of uncrowded tables of wines from Argentinian producers. Now, you may know that I have a soft spot for Malbec, specifically from South America — I think well-made ones can provide great hedonistic enjoyment at relatively inexpensive prices. There is a ton of cheap Malbec out there, however, and much of it is overoaked, tricked-up juice (the technical industry term is “spoofulated”, if you can believe that). But when it’s good, there’s something special I get from the warm, rich, chocolate/berry flavors in Malbec that I just don’t find in other varietals.

One of the most memorable wines I have ever had in my life was a high-end Malbec made in Argentina from a California vintner named Paul Hobbs. He had been working on a couple of projects down there for a few years, and after refining his approach he launched a luxury brand called Vina Cobos in the late 1990s. His initial vintages scored some strong reviews, so I speculated a bottle of his newly-released 2002 vintage despite the hefty $65 price tag (then unheard of for a South American Malbec). One sip and I was absolutely blown away (I gave the wine 96 points, which Parker subsequently did as well) and I immediately picked up a half dozen bottles before the word got out. I wasn’t the only one — when Parker’s score was published the wine flew off the shelves, so much that by the next vintage Hobbs had increased the price of his Cobos Malbec by nearly double to $125 a bottle!

As a result of experiencing the flavors and refinement of a truly spectacular Malbec, I’ve been longing to find it again ever since (though preferably at a something less than $100/bottle). So I’ve been monitoring published reviews religiously, keeping my eyes open for high scoring Malbecs at something approaching a “reasonable” price. Over the years I’ve probably tried a half-dozen $50+ Malbecs with scores in the 92-95 range, and I’ve been consistently disappointed to find crazily-extracted, over-oaked steroid monsters (not unlike the extremes to which some Aussies have taken Shiraz in recent years). So I’ve not purchased a second bottle of any of them.

Which (finally) brings me to today’s wine. When I paused at a couple of the open Argentina tables, I figured this would be another chance to locate a solid inexpensive Malbec to offer the Guild. After trying a couple of the selections (which were fine, but undifferentiated), I noticed a couple of nicer-looking bottles at the far end of the table. When the winemaker explained in broken English that they were his most expensive cuvees, I figured I’d try them for my own benefit in my ongoing quest. And to my shock and surprise, I finally found a wine that reminded me of the Paul Hobbs experience some 6 years ago — the 2007 Finca Mayol Finca Pircas Malbec. I loved the small taste I had so much that I got the distributor to give me a sample bottle to bring home to taste Will and Michael on (just to make sure I wasn’t having an out-of-body experience after a long day). A few nights later they dropped by, and they strongly shared my conviction. Here are my notes:

5/8/2010 rated 93 points: Popped and poured. Deep, dark ruby color. Intoxicating nose of crushed black fruit and a touch of heat. The palate is a mouth full of macerated blackberries, with hints of eucalyptus and coffee. Great purity of fruit — I presume there’s some oak used here, but you don’t notice it at all. Some modest tannins on the finish give it a bit of grip. After 3 hours, the heat has blown off and more nuance emerges with hints of anise and mint.

Unlike the typical high-end Malbecs from South America, the fruit here is center stage, not ruined by a ton of oak and vanilla. Reminiscent in style of the kind of wonderful 1998 Shirazes that Australia built its reputation on. Really wonderful stuff, and notably better than some highly-rated ~$80 luxury Malbecs I’ve tried…

Finca Mayol is a small, family-owned and operated winery in the Lujon de Cuyo region of Mendoza in Argentina. Production quantities are small even for their low-end wines, and the high end wines are even tinier, with only 100 cases of the 2007 Finca Pircas made. This is artisinal winemaking at its best.

When I took my sample, the winemaker seemed truly thrilled and insisted that one must decant the wine a couple of hours before drinking for it to show best. Given my experience of how our bottle evolved throughout the evening, I would agree wholeheartedly. This is simply fantastic wine for current consumption, and a perfect foil for a big slab of red meat and a chocolaty dessert. I recommend this very highly, and while the price might be more than you’ve considered paying for a Argentinian Malbec in the past, I think you may have the same eye-opening, mind-blowing experience I had when I first tasted just how amazing high-end Malbec can be.

2007 Finca Mayol Malbec Finca Pircas, Mendoza, Argentina
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $26.95 • Premier Cru: $28.18 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $38.00
Buy this wine!

This is another limited quantity offering, so please do get back to us quickly if you have an interest.

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