I was pub-crawling through Brooklyn with Chris Kuhn, a good buddy of mine and a distributor for WineLite, a couple nights ago, and the topic of Malbecs came up. He knows how passionate I am about the varietal, and that I might even be buying land down in Mendoza before long to launch my own brand, and we stopped to ponder the appeal of Malbec.

For me, I think a major part of the positioning has to do with uniqueness. When Chile started making great cabs, they had Bordeaux and California to compete with. If I sit down for a steak and want a fantastic red to pair, why go to Chile when there are domestic options and old world options I know and love? But the Argentine Malbec competes with no one within the same varietal. They are known for it, and when people hear the grape they think of the region. Boom. Forget that it is only a blending grape in Bordeaux. California has been using Cab Franc and Petit Verdot on its own for just as long, and with similar enological success. As Chris notes, nowadays every restaurant he approaches asks him if he’s got a good Malbec from Argentina. In Brooklyn, at least, the people demand it.

But there’s something else in the whole “small-grape” thing. There is something exciting to the American palette when a grape can spend a lot of time in the run getting all inky black and deliciously tannic. Think about the Stag’s Leap Petit Syrah. Just dark and delicious, the product of smaller grapes and experienced craftsmanship. Malbec has the potential for that, and I think the best Malbecs coming out of Mendoza these days (cannot lavish enough praise on Achaval, but I have a love affair with Ruca Malen just the same) are doing it in style.

I want to write a separate post on the idea of aggressive flavors and wine pairings, but I thought a brief Malbec tribute post would be fun. Let me know what you think!