In the world of wine, when you hear Argentina, you immediately think Malbec. So much so, that you might assume Malbec is native to Argentina.
Rather, Malbec is native to the lesser-famed wine region of southwest France, where it is called Côt or Auxerrois. French botanist Michel Aimé Pouget is widely credited with bringing Malbec to Argentina in 1853, and the story behind this deserves mentioning.
Pouget was invited to Chile in the mid-1800s to develop its wine industry, and exiled Argentinian political activist and thinker Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (who would return from exile to become the president of Argentina a decade later) convinced his Argentinian compatriots to bring Pouget to Argentina.
It was in the now-world renowned Mendoza region, in the shadow of the great Andes Mountains, that Pouget opened the Quinta Normal de Mendoza, a research center and wine school, where French varietals would be introduced to the area.
At the time, Malbec had lost much popularity in its native France following the phylloxera outbreak, or “Great French Wine Blight,” of the mid-19th century that destroyed much of France’s vineyards. The Malbec grape is particularly susceptible to disease, and when France replanted, they gave up on planting a major amount of Malbec for the most part.
Argentina, on the other hand is full of sunshine and relatively pest-free. Argentinian terroir (I’ve been avoiding using the word terroir as I conscientiously avoid sounding like a bigger jerk than I am, but here we are), with its alluvial clay and sand soil, and a very high altitude, is perfect for Malbec to flourish.
Thus, the perfect spot for our 2017 Flechas De Los Andes Gran Reserva Malbec ($25, available locally and online). Bodegas Flechas De Los Andes was a partnership between Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, the 50-something French banker/businessman, and Laurent Dassault, French businessman and wine icon.
As with many wine labels, there is often a significance to the graphics. In this case, you’ll find the Rothschild crest of five arrows, signifying the five Rothschild brothers, which then explains the names Flechas De Los Andes, or “Arrows of Andes.” The grapes are handpicked and the wine is traditionally made using modern equipment, and aged in new French oak.
The result is a beautiful Gran Reserva Malbec, suitable for pretty much any meal, from simple to fancy.
This being the Kosher Decanter, I wonder if Israel, with its arid climate, will increase its mostly-limited production of Malbec. I can’t say I’ve yet loved an Israeli Malbec, but as we’ve discussed, Israeli wine innovators are continuing to plant and produce varietals more appropriate to Israel, rather than the more usual fodder of Cab and Merlot, often created for the gun-shy wine-buyer who is afraid to try anything other than what they already know.
Don’t be this wine buyer!
This all said, let’s talk about our wine, the 2017 Flechas De Los Andes Malbec. The wine is dark purple, with Malbec’s trademark magenta rim. There is a nose of dark fruit, chocolate and spice, and light oak. The body is medium with very nice acid, rich tannins, and a mouth of blackberry, plum, more chocolate, and spices.
This wine should age nicely in your cellar, so don’t be shy in picking up a case and seeing how it ages over the next decade. It’ll likely age better than you. The ‘17 Flechas De Los Andes Malbec will pair swimmingly with your medium rare lamb burger this Labor Day.
And hey, if you only find the 2015 or 2016 vintage on the shelves, fear not, they are equally worthy of your hard-earned dollars.
Dr. Kenneth Friedman is a Baltimore-born kosher wine aficionado/connoisseur. He is known for his unsolicited wine advice and runs many local kosher wine tastings.