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Malbec con Cow

September 1, 2011 - by Nicholas Gill

Malbec grapes grow in Argentina like nowhere else on earth; just as grass fed cows have no prettier place to graze than on the country’s endless plains. These are two iconic elements of the country. On their own they spin legends, but pair the two and this is where they form something special. Something only experienced in Argentina.

Since I first tasted a Malbec about seven or eight years ago in Peru, I’ve sampled it from fifty different vineyards and traveled to almost every corner of Mendoza. Each bottle evokes notes like coffee, blackberries, bacon, chocolate, plum, herbs, toasted oak, vanilla, and spices. It’s dense, dark, full-bodied, and rich. Malbec takes on a different connotation in each location, not to mention with every winemaker. Compare a simply made yet refined Carmelo Patti’s Malbec with a more elaborately produced high altitude Catena Zapata Malbec, consistently my favorite, and you’ll understand. With Malbec there’s something special that a Cabernet just doesn’t do. Each is satisfying it its own way and each reveals a little bit more with every piece of flesh.

What is it about Argentine beef that makes it so unique? First of all, the beef is grass fed, not corn or grain fed. Hormones are rare too. It comes from vast prairies that cover much of the country and extend all the way until the ends of Patagonia. I have a theory that any ingredient taste better when it is raised or grown in a beautiful place. This would be a big plus for Argentine beef if my theory proves true. At La Cabrera, a steakhouse in Buenos Aires, with every cut of meat served they send along a tray of different flavors to pair with the meat. There’s butternut squash puree, mashed pumpkin with raisins, beet purée, sun dried tomatoes, white beans, caramelized onions, baked pearl onions in red wine, and several others. After each bite of meat the combination produces something new and exciting. Earthy, deep, and smoky flavors are brought to the palate. Malbec adds another dimension.

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