For Christmas, The Analyst/Santa gave me what must be one of the current ultimate winegeek books – Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz. It tells you pretty much everything you want to know about the 1368 wine varieties that are in commercial production including, importantly, what they taste like. This is an epic tome but with its grape bunch illustrations and vinous family trees, one can get easily and dreamily lost between Abbuoto and Zweigelt.
Without the benefit of Wine Grapes if I asked where Malbec comes from, I expect the answer would be Argentina. For that is where this variety is most celebrated. I’ve also come across Malbecs from Cahors in south western France, where it makes the famous “black wine,” and also from the Loire. But…South Africa? Apparently Malbec is a rising star here and Finest* Swartland Malbec 2012 is an example of this trend.
The first thing that struck me on pouring this wine into the glass, is that it looks very different to its Cahors cousin. It’s much lighter in both colour and body – sort of cherry red. The aromas are fruity and almost a bit perfumed. Red fruit rather than black – maybe cherries or raspberries. I thought I caught a hint of transient smokiness on one sniff too.
The flavours however, definitely switch to black fruits. Sweet, spicy black cherries was my main impression. This wine has really juicy acidity and a spicy almost peppery finish. Cherry and plum flavours do linger on and any perceptible tannins are fine grained. The alcohol level is 13.5%.
This wine is really drinkable but I’m not sure how it would stand up to a big, juicy steak. I’d have a glass on it’s own or with a much more delicately flavoured meat. The Analyst really liked it saying: “It’s full of surprises, looks light but has unexpected spiciness – almost a hint of chilli”
I’d say, to paraphrase, Star Trek “It’s Malbec Jim but not as we know it.”
Finest* Swartland Malbec 2012 costs £7.99 from Tesco. It’s on offer at £6 until January 22.
W.O.W. Factor 6.5