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The Grapevine: Let’s Talk Malbec


By Missa Capozzo

The first agricultural school in Argentina was founded on April 17, 1853, in the hopes of adapting French grapes to the soils of Mendoza. This date symbolizes putting Argentina on the world’s wine map. Malbec, Argentina’s flagship grape, originated in France, but was soon found to thrive in Argentina’s terroir even better than France’s.

Malbec originated in southwestern France (the Sud-Ouest), where it is called “Côt.” It is a minor blending grape in many Right Bank Bordeauxs and grows beautifully in Cahors. Today, over 75 percent of all Malbec grapes are grown in Argentina, and can also be found successfully growing in California, Washington, Oregon, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.

Malbec produces a deep, inky, purplish hue and juicy, dark fruit flavors, such as black cherry, plum, raspberry, blackberry, pomegranate, and even blueberry, with a sometimes smoky, rustic finish. It is a medium in its acidity, has robust tannins, and can offer secondary flavors, such as coffee, chocolate, mocha, tobacco, leather, and even a note of black pepper.

One of the reasons Malbec is so popular and well received is that it is incredibly food friendly. Malbec’s firm structure, combined with moderate alcohol content, allows it to shine alongside meat of all sorts, in particular, leaner cuts made with herbs and spices, such as thyme, rosemary, paprika, cumin, coriander, black pepper, garlic, green onions, and barbecue sauce. Cheeses like sharp cheddar, manchego, or stilton are ideal, and you can’t go wrong with dark chocolate covered dried fruits to truly bring out the deep fruit notes of the grape.

In all honesty, I had no intention of sourcing a Malbec for the Sail to Trail WineWorks (Worcester’s Urban Winery) portfolio. As our first vintage of Zinfandel was selling out and needed to be replaced, one of our California vineyards sent me a sample of a finished Malbec alongside the new vintage of Zinfandel. One sip of the Malbec and I knew it needed to boast the Sail to Trail label. It is fruity, earthy, food friendly and a stand-alone sipper, and exhibits medium acidity and robust tannins, resulting in a beautifully balanced wine. Although technically dry, it appeals to dry and sweet white wine lovers alike.

The Sail to Trail WineWorks Malbec has quickly become one of our most popular wines and greatest sellers. With so many Malbecs available for $20 a bottle or less retail, it is the epitome of value, as it typically drinks much more expensive than its price tag.

Not a huge fan of red wines? No problem! Malbec is the perfect base wine for red sangria! I enjoy adding in equal parts of raspberry and pomegranate vodkas, a splash of Sprite or lemon/lime soda, and a variety of fruits. This creates a fabulously refreshing, fruity cocktail that all will enjoy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Missa Capozzo is the EVP of Product Development and Sommelier at Worcester’s first and only urban winery, Sail to Trail WineWorks and a Wine Consultant with WineShop At Home. Throughout her career, she has taught students of all levels of experience and interest in classes, wine dinners, and lifestyle experiences. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) with the Society of Wine Educators, a certified French Wine Scholar (FWS), certified with the Wine and Spirits Trust, Level 3 Advanced (WSET), and a certified educator with Boston Wine School (BWSEd).  Her unique combination of talent allows her to translate the nuances of wine for the everyday wine drinker in an accessible and fun way. Demystifying wine and removing the intimidation is her passion when sharing wine with others. When not fully immersed in the world of wine, Missa is a self-proclaimed “obsessed dog mom” to her Boston Terrier, Peyton.