MAD ABOUT MALBEC IN MENDOZA

We are mad alright, about the amazing Malbecs we enjoyed on our recent visit to Mendoza, Argentina. A grape that was once popular in Bordeaux as one of the 5 permitted players in traditional Bordeaux blends, say Malbec today and the automatic response is “the grape of Argentina” and with good reason!

The Malbec grape is to Argentina as Shiraz is to Australia, Zinfandel to California, Pinotage to South Africa and more recently Carmenere to Chile... it has found its niche, putting this grape on the world wine map, producing amazing wines, with descriptives the likes of “floral, violets, licorice, spicy, deep red and black fruit, chocolate or coffee... and most distinctively the sweet, soft, silky, mouthfilling tannins!

Such an impact has been made with this varietal in its modern domaine that an annual tribute “Malbec World Day” will be celebrating its 3rd anniversary April 17th, 2013. The 43 countries which participated in 2012 will surely be surpassed this year! Watch for events happening in close to 100 cities, including our very own Toronto!

Although with a rich history and deep roots, Malbec was first planted in Argentina as far back as 1852 brought over by French agronomist Michel Pouget, it is only in the last couple of decades that it has begun to take centre stage, and be so deservedly appreciated around the world of wine.

While in Argentina we experienced the magic of Malbec first hand, while even more magically against the constant backdrop of the absolutely breathtaking Andes, the largest mountain range in the world, the lifeline for the Malbec vineyards and others, providing them the drink to survive and thrive. 

The Andes, Cordon del Plata peak makes a stunning backdrop for the Fabre Montmayou vineyards.

Our itinerary included visiting the two primary wine producing provinces in the country; Mendoza, responsible for 80% of all wines produced and second in production San Juan, a little further north, with differing soils and climate producing wines of its unique personality.

First stop was in Vistalba located in the “departement” of Lujan du Cuyo, in Mendoza, at a boutique winery called Fabre Montmayou.  Geographically, think of Argentina as a big set with multiple subsets. Argentina, divides into fourteen provinces, with Mendoza being the king-pin of wine production, within Mendoza there are “departments” which include Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley, which we later visit, with each expressing differing characteristics, and within the department of Lujan de Cuyo is Vistalba, the home of Fabre Montmayou. 

Georgia inspects the Malbec with winemaker, owner, director Hervé Joyaux Fabre of Fabre Montmayou.

 

We speak of roots, and here at Fabre Montmayou on 15 hectares, they run deep, with the Malbec vines dating back to 1908 brought over by the first immigrants to come to Argentina. The roots, or ancestry of founder Herve Joyaux Fabre come from Bordeaux, with generations involved with the vine. In 1992 on a visit, Herve was seduced by the potential of the magnificent malbec grape in Mendoza and there was no turning back! Fabre Montmayou was born.

We had the privilege to spend a few days with Herve and his lovely wife Diane, an integral partner in the business, and our experience was one of incredible wines, amazing foods including Argentine specialties empanadas and the “asado” as well as the world renown Fiesta Vendimia, a spectacular show celebrating the Argentine grape harvest.  Here are a few of the highlights of our visit with Herve and Diane.

Our first day in the vineyards and at the winery had us busy participating at the sorting table as the first grapes were harvested for 2013, the Sauvignon Blanc.

 

 

 A tasting of FM wines left a great impression on us,  showcasing the superb quality of wines that are being made at very affordable prices. The FM Malbec excels, takes center stage, their top seller. We are excited to learn that this particular Fabre Montmayou Reserva Malbec 2011 will be available in our Ontario market just in time for Malbec World Day. You may taste this Malbec at the Malbec World Day celebration taking place in Toronto, April 16th, 2013 at the VINTAGES, walk-around tasting  at Roy Thompson Hall.

 

At Diane and Herve’s French style Chateau, among the vineyards and the gardens we enjoy a typical Mendoza dish, homemade empanadas. Absolutely delicious, served with the Phebus Torrontes, the perfect wine to match with the spice of the dish! Crisp, dry with good acidity, with light floral, peach and  touch of melon aromas. Phebus Torrontes 2011 is availabe at the LCBO  $14.95

The Phebus Torrontes, LCBO $14.95, perfect for a sunny day in Argentina and delicious with the classic Argentine dish, homemade empanadas!

 

Grand Vin for Georgia alone!

The Fabre Montmayou Grand Vin is rich, seductive, deep red in colour, with plum and cherries, mouth filling with soft tannins and hint of vanilla from 16 months aging in 100% French oak barrels. Blend is comprised of 85% Malbec (circa1908 vineyards), 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot.

 

 

Say yes to Argentine Beef!  With typical Argentine BBQ the asado!

 

Viñalba Rosé, from Merlot and Malbec grapes is the perfect partner to get this feast underway! Refreshing with berries and cherries on the nose and a just enough weight to stand up to our first course off the grill the “choripanes”!

 

Chef Herve instructs on the “methodology” to the asado... six cuts of beef, including sweetbreads, one of Georgia’s favs, and two of pork. So delish!

 

At Fabre Montmayou Hervé and Diane are committed to farming with traditional methods and without herbicides to protect the environment and be sure to get the finest grapes. The grapes are hand picked and transported in small trays to prevent them from crushing under their own weight. They have been rewarded and awarded with international acclaim, stemming from great passion and Bordelais Savoire-Faire! Voila!

Enjoying the Festiva Vendimia with a bottle or 2 of wine, great company, music, dancing, fireworks and awaiting the crowning of the Queen! Oh what a night!

 

On to one of the most celebrated wine events/shows on the global wine scene the Festiva Vendimia! Over 30,000 spectators will gather for this spectacular show taking place at a Greek style amphitheater in Mendoza. We are there, joining in a lengthy walk up the hill, accompanied by hundreds and hundreds of people, ascending, the enthusiasm is palpable, the chatter, the wine bags, filled with Malbec no doubt... the picnic baskets, the Argentine flags... the people fierce with pride! Walking, walking...climbing, this is SO exciting! Just to imagine that thousands of people from around the world, involved in this privileged world of wine covet a presence at this spectacular event... there are no words.... to describe our experience!  And we are here! A show that captivates for close to 90 minutes, then closes with the election of a new “harvest” Queen, who will represent the world of Argentinean wine, the crown goes to the department of Malargüe! 

 

Here Diane and Herve proudly show us a very special piece of art gracing their family room, one done by friend and famous artist Sergio Roggerone celebrating the harvest and Festiva Vendimia.

A big thank you to Hervé and Diane for their wonderful hospitality and generosity, sharing with us what Mendoza is all about, from the wonderful wines, to the rich culture... Mad about Mendoza ... and her Malbecs! Salud!