Originally Published in Vines On Pine Newsletter
In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I have a special relationship with Malbec. It is the wine that reminds me of my late father. He was from Buenos Aires and loved his fine wine, almost as much as I do. I was his only son and he and I were very close. For these reasons, I have shied away from reviewing Malbecs as I tend to be very critical of them, almost as though I subconsciously hold them to a higher standard than other varietals.
I remember Pop reminiscing at the kitchen table about his gorgeous homeland over a thick grass-fed steak and a rich glass of Malbec. He spoke of how organic farming techniques were always employed in Argentina, by law, but also out of respect for one’s craft, and how it was only logical and not a fad per se.
He described his trips to the vineyards and the picturesque scenery of Mendoza, of the steep mountains surrounding it. If the wine we were drinking was good, he would go on about the lush green hills, the intense sunlight, and the cool nights that yielded intensely powerful and at once easily enjoyable wines. He would speak of how the right wine made the best steaks in the world even more delicious.
It was at the dinner table chatting with Pop that I developed the reverence I now have for wine. So that when I have a flimsy or flat Malbec, I feel like my father’s favorite wine is being sullied, along with his memory.
There are very few Malbecs that I will endorse, but my favorite “every day” Malbec is Fabre Montmayou Reserva . This would be fit to grace our family table. This is a wine that would make my father smile. Organically grown and vinified, it is made “the right way.” It is full bodied, balanced and smooth to its core.
With its beautiful rich black fruits, well-balanced structure with hints of coca and tobacco, and elegant tannins on the finish, it will enhance any pasta dish, but where it will shine most is when paired with red meat. At $14.99, I can be choosy and still have enough in my budget left over for a good steak.
For special occasions I turn to the Fabre Montmayou Grand Reserva Malbec. Like its younger brother, the Gran Reserva is bold and fruit intensive without being jammy. Where the Grand Reserva differs is that the additional time spent in oak opens up gorgeous nuances. The aromas are richer and the flavor profile deeper. The Grand Reserva is slightly spicier, with hints of coconut and the aroma of leather. The undertone of earth is more pronounced and the finish is markedly longer and more satisfying.
I would equate the difference in the wines to watching a great movie that was adopted from a classic novel. While the film is entertaining, when one reads the novel, the details make it a much more enriching experience. And at $21.99, I can honestly say it is a smartly priced, fitting tribute to my father and worthy of his excellent taste.