Clos de los Siete – 2018

I’m like Leonardo di Caprio in reverse. I only drink old wines.

It’s not because I’m a wine snob. It’s because I’ve built up a big collection and it needs to be drunk. It’s also because it’s wildly interesting to get a better feel for what happens to wine as it ages.

However, I’ve decided to take the WSET Level 2 course, and most of the varietal descriptions, and most of the wines we’ll be tasting as part of the course are going to be young. So I figured it was a good idea to remind myself what young wines taste like!

So I made a Total Wine run and picked up a bottle of everything I haven’t tried before or haven’t tasted in a long time: Fiano, Verdicchio, Pinotage, Gruner Veltliner etc. And as I was racing through the aisles, I saw Clos de los Siete on special. Michel Rolland + Mendoza + Bordeaux blend + Malbec. I knew it was going to be rich and lush.

I followed the WSET’s “SAT” method (Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine) and started familiarizing myself with the steps and the vocabulary. But that’s too boring! This was a very dark ruby wine with black fruit and oak that erupted out of the glass. I smelled cedar and smoke, and by the second sniff couldn’t get grilled ribs out of my head.

I expected my mouth to be coated with tannins, but they were ridiculously smooth and ripe. ‘Creamy’ one critic wrote, and that’s spot on. With the vanilla-ish flavors from the oak, it was like a black plum creamsicle.

I didn’t tell my wife what she was drinking. “Gosh, that’s rich!” she exclaimed, and asked for the glass again.

By WSET standards, I’d consider this a “very good” wine 🙂 A bit Napa Valley-cartoonish, but certainly very enjoyable.

Malbec – Been a Long Time

Gosh. When was the last time I drank a Malbec?

Other than a few bottles of Achaval Ferrer, I don’t have any Malbecs in my collection. I never buy Malbec at wine stores, and I don’t see it frequently on wine lists by the glass.

You’d think that I abhor Malbecs, but I actually quite enjoy them!

I’m guessing that there are two reasons for this. First, I don’t eat a lot of beef anymore because my wife doesn’t think it’s healthy. (I love it nonetheless! So I sneak out for a steak from time to time.) Second, because like Aussie Shiraz, mass-market Malbecs can feel pretty formulaic.

So I decided to give Clos d’Argentine’s 2014 Winemarker’s Selection Malbec Reserva. The wine got a 91 from Wine Enthusiast and costs around $15 (I think).

Of course the wine is very dark. I smelled more oak than fruit on the nose, together with an unpleasant aroma of wet cigarette butt that once my brain latched on to I just couldn’t shake. I decided to let the wine sit for a bit, and I’m glad I did.

I am constantly reminded of the importance of letting wine breathe – even for wines that are just five years old like this. During the ‘waking up’ process, nasty smells that have been bouncing around in the bottle waft away, the sometimes vinegar-like acidity fades, primary aromas get into the glass and my overall enjoyment of the wine surges. 

After an hour, the cigarette butt smell was gone, replaced by much preferable dark cherry and tobacco aromas. Still not as fruity as I would like, however, and even a bit sour! Acidity was good though the tannins were hardly noticeable.   

While the ‘breathing’ certainly helped, I wasn’t a big fan of this wine. It felt unbalanced (too much wood) and not enough core, ripe fruit. 

WineKnow Facts:

  • While Malbec is Argentina’s iconic red wine, the grape is indubitably French. In Cahors, it’s known as Cot. (In a wonderful boomerang, Cahors wines are making something of a comeback thanks to Malbec’s global fame!)
  • That said, Argentine Malbec tastes quite different from Cot from Cahors. Much of this comes down to climate and wine-making approaches. But the grapes themselves have different attributes – likely because the original Cot cuttings came to South American in the 1800s, well before the phylloxera epidemic in Europe. Even French winemakers admit (well, some of them do) that the original Cots (now making Malbec in Argentina) are superior for more serious wines.
  • Classic Malbec characteristics: very dark purple, brambly (even gamey) dark fruit, high alcohol, medium-high acidity and medium tannins. Maybe some chocolaty goodness or smokiness on the finish. Wines tend to be big but ‘smooth.’
  • The most comparable grapes to Malbec would be Syrah and Merlot – at least in my mind.