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The Weekly Dozen - Malbec, but Hold the Mendoza

Southern Hemisphere winemakers have done a great job of expropriating grape varieties from the Northern Hemisphere and almost commercially trademarking them as their own.

Marlborough “stole” France’s Sauvignon Blanc and made the grape famous by making it into wines that were more cutting edge than are those from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. And when Cahors was doing little to market their Malbecs to the world, Mendoza said, “Here, let us show you how it’s done.”  And, for a while, the Aussies were having great commercial success with the Rhone Valley’s Syrah, which they cheekily – an Australia trait – renamed “Shiraz.”

But their successes do nothing to diminish the fact that great wines are still being made with all three grapes in their regions of origin. It is up to the current generation, whichever letter of the alphabet they identify with, to rediscover them.

We can deal with Sauvignon and Syrah at a later date, but let’s take a look at a few Malbecs from Cahors nestled among this week’s Dozen.

Remember, Cahors built its reputation on the wine being so dark that it was called “the black wine.” Once, when I was visiting the region, an older winemaker but the stem of a glass between his fingers and cradled the bowl of wine. “See, if I can see my fingers it’s not Cahors!” Some of the wines here are similarly opaque.

2015 Triguedina Malbec de Cahors ($17). These first six wines are from the Cahors producer Jean-Luc Baldes, and this is the entry level – dark and murky both in flavor and texture with concentrated black raspberry tastes and lots of tannins. But you’ll find that most Cahors are tannic.

2013 Clos Triguedina “Petite Cailles” Cahors ($30). Quite nice. A blend of red and dark fruits, mild tannins, good structure, good acidity, lots of wood notes from aging – a versatile table wine.

2011 Clos Triguedina Cahors ($33). For those who find big Cahors a bit much, this one is more approachable, a very nice combo of fresh and mellow cherry flavors (note from the vintages that these wines are mature) with some creaminess in the finish.

2013 Clos Triguedina “Au Coin du Bois” Cahors ($49). This reminds me of an old-style Bordeaux (for those who can remember) with lots of blackberry flavors, big tannins and pronounced barrel notes.

2008 Clos Triguedina “Probus” Cahors ($67). Amazingly lively on the palate for an 11-year-old wine – lots of fruit, lots of oak, and, like the Petite Cailles, a very flexible table wine.

2012 Clos Triguedina “The New Black Wine” Cahors ($112). I swear I fell in love with this wine before I checked its price. Delicious, with lots of lively, fresh, black raspberry flavors with well-integrated wood and manageable tannins.

2019 Decibel “Giunta” New Zealand Malbec Nouveau ($15). You either like nouveaus, tolerate them or totally reject them, and, that said, this one is typical with fresh-fruit but understandably immature tastes and textures. A hint of licorice in there.

2017 Decibel Gimblett Gravels New Zealand Malbec ($18). The Gravels can do a good job with about any red grape except Pinot, but this wine has a lot of neutral, punky wood that makes it seem older than it is and masks its fruit.

And now for our non-Malbec finish:

2016 Catena Alta “Historic Rows” Mendoza Chardonnay ($31). For those who like big fruity and oaky Chards, here you are – the toastiness also bears the aroma and taste of fresh corn kernels.

2017 J. McClelland “50 Harvests” Napa Valley Meritage Blanc ($35). It’s always a risk to make Semillon the lead grape (52%) in a blend with Sauvignon Blanc, but the risk works here. It’s a very complex and enjoyable white that plays up Semillon’s great mouth feel and spicy fruitiness, and has the green fruitiness of Sauvignon playing second fiddle.

2016 Volver La Mancha Single Vineyard Tempranillo ($15). Still quite tight, with concentrated blackberry and cranberry tastes and lots of tannins. If you have it in your cellar, hide it for a few years.

2014 Secondo Marco Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso ($28). Very bright fruit, and very fruit forward – would love a bit more tannins and acidity for balance.

Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com.

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