Malbec uncovered
quality over quantity

One of the most exciting movements in the wine world right now is the emergence of Malbec as a stellar varietal from Argentina’s Mendoza region. Wine lovers received a fantastic sampling of this versatile grape at a recent wine dinner held at Papagallo’s produced by Premier Wines and Spirits.

“This French varietal, which failed so miserably on its home soil in Bordeaux, has reached startling heights of quality in Argentina. Both inexpensive, delicious Malbecs and majestic, profoundly complex ones from high-elevation vineyards are already being produced, and by 2015 this long ignored grape’s place in the pantheon of noble wines will be guaranteed.”

Robert Parker, September 2004

The well-known wine critic Robert Parker does not give away accolades lightly yet one particular winemaker hailing from Mendoza has a collection of seriously high ratings for its range of wines, endorsing Parker’s vision from back in 2004.

The Renacer winery was founded in 2004 by Patricio Reich, a wine expert who had served as partner and director of Viña San Pedro in Chile, a well-known winery in the country. It was his vision there that changed the mass production of Chilean wines into high quality selections. His son, Patricio Reich has followed in his father’s footsteps, having previously pursued a career in banking, and he visited Cayman recently to promote his family winery, at the behest of Premier Wines.

“My father had been successful in Chile turning quantity wines into quality,” he says. “He was then encouraged to establish a winery in Argentina, which he built from scratch.”

Patricio says that although the winery concentrates predominantly on Malbec, they have a sister operation in Chile which makes fantastic Sauvignon Blanc as well.

“My father wanted to make the best reds in Argentina and the best whites in Chile,” he confirms.

Malbec, Patricio says, has really helped to put Argentina on the wine world map, with Mendoza alone now sporting around 1200 wineries.

“It’s a versatile grape,” he says. “You can enjoy it with many different dishes. Of course Argentina is well known for its excellent steaks, with which it partners excellently, but it also works really well with grilled vegetables, pasta and risotto.”

Premier Wines offer the full range of Renacer Malbecs, from their entry level Punto Final Clasico to the select ‘Renacer’.

“The Punto Final Clasico (CI$12.87) is a great wine to introduce people to the Malbec grape,” Carrie Stein, director at Premier Wines, a wine company which delivers right to your door, explains. “Its fruit forward and full of lots of lovely juicy red and black fruits such as strawberries, blackberries and cherries. It’s an approachable wine that can be enjoyed equally well drunk by itself or paired with food.”

Papagallo’s owner/manager Vico Testori and Executive Chef Steve Wagner thought long and hard about the menu to accompany the wines, shifting dishes around so that their food would fully bring out all the nuances of the wines.

“It’s always a challenge to create a dinner around the wines but we believe we’ve managed to match the wines nicely,” Vico says.

Diners can testify to that, beginning with a warm goat’s cheese and potato terrine with leeks and chives and a compote of honey, celery and mustard seeds.

“The dish could have been a bit pungent with the goat’s cheese but the mascarpone that we added, along with the leeks smoothed the flavour out,” Vico adds.

A memorable soft and creamy yet piquant first course and a great pairing indeed, so long as you veered away from the honey, which was just a tad too sweet to do the wine justice.

Next up was a step up from the Clasico, this time a Punto Final Malbec Reserva 2007 (CI$19.33) which had spent a year in French oak, thus bringing out wonderful vanilla secondary notes as well as the fruity first aromas.

A well balanced dish then followed – millefoglie of juicy duck breast and golden apple with a delicate celeriac puree and blueberry sauce, bringing out the cherry notes in the wine as well as hints of cinnamon.

Turning more to Papagallo’s traditional Northern Italian roots, the following dish (and a personal favourite) highlighted all that’s great about that region’s culinary offerings – a rich open faced ravioli with beef short rib and la sua salsa.

Vico says the choice of this dish was dictated by the wine – an Enamore 2008 (CI$24.89), made in the traditional Amarone style which spoke the Italian language, but perhaps with a Spanish accent.

“Amarone is one of my favourite wines so we created this rich and succulent dish to marry with the Enamore.”

“Enamore is a beautiful wine,” Patricio confirms. “It’s the first and only Amarone-style wine in Argentina. We partnered with Amarone winemakers Allegrini, who taught us the art of drying grapes until they are concentrated, to give the classic figs and floral notes, along with black cherry and honey.”

Clearly a success, the wines have been awarded high ratings with the 2007 vintage being awarded 91 points by Wine Spectator and 92 points by the Wine Advocate.

Renacer’s flagship wine, its Renacer Malbec 2007 ($51.11) was the pièce de résistance for diners, paired with a hearty, rich and flavourful Italian rustic dish of Malbec brasato of veal cheek, served with a vegetable concasse, a polenta taragne (named after the stick with which Italian’s used to stir their polenta) and pearl onions and mushroom trifolati.

“This is our iconic wine,” Patricio explains. “It’s made from grapes sourced at high altitude and only 6,000 bottles are made and only then in vintages that we believe are exceptional. Because the grapes are at high altitude they develop especially thick skins which give the wine its tannic and robust structure.”

Among this wine’s many accolades, Wine Spectator awarded the 2006 vintage 93 points, the Wine Advocate 94+ points and the Wine Enthusiast awarded the 2004 vintage 93 points, making it a top 100 wine for 2007.

The richness of the dish was perfectly counter foiled by this big, tannic wine, which gave beautiful hints of roses on the nose, as well as coffee black pepper and chocolate.

Carrie decided to have fun with her guests for dessert, having diners choose between a Molly’s Irish Cream (the precursor to Baileys) or Atlantico Rum (a smooth and delicious aged rum) to drink alongside Papagallo’s stunning dessert of Molly’s Irish Cream warm chocolate tart, an intensely chocolaty experience and rum-honey gelato, an equally intense hit of rum. It was hard to choose so both were consumed and pronounced equally effective partners with the dish.

The marriage of Renacer wines and Papagallo’s culinary delights was a clear triumph of quality all round.

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Aurelio pours bubbly

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