Northwest Malbec: The Next Big Thing? Or Not?

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Depending on who you believe, Malbec is either the next big thing in the Northwest or it’s … maybe it isn’t.

Malbec is a red grape varietal originating in Bordeaux, France. Argentina, however, is the country that gave Malbec it’s own spotlight and brought her into the mainstream. Many wonderful wines come from the Mendoza region because Malbec does well in high altitude areas where days are warm and nights are cooler.

Common characteristics in the wine are a dark fruit like plum and black cherry balanced with leather and black pepper making it a perfect companion for steak, Argentinian grass-fed steak, in fact.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman, editors of Wine Press Northwest, authored the article we linked to up there saying Malbec is the next big thing because a recent competition attracted 89 Washington Malbecs. The problem, according to Dan Berger is twofold: the varietal is lackluster, and the the price being offered by Washington Malbecs can’t compete with the Argentinian exports.

We don’t disagree with Mr. Berger, but lets dissect the issues here because at Small House, we just pressed off our Washington Malbec grapes put in barrel to age and mature. Here is why we think it’s still a great idea.

  • Flavor profile: This summer in Washington, we had an optimum growing season with warm days and cool nights, and an early harvest. It’s too early to tell how the wine is, but flavor doesn’t end there. As the guys taste the juice, they’ll determine whether they need to do a Malolactic fermentation, introduce oak, or blend it with something.
  • Cost: Argentina’s Malbecs are typically in the $15 range and are very good. (In fact, I’ve been in a Malbec kick this Fall, and we really want to travel to Mendoza to try the wines they won’t export!) The Washington wines submitted to the competition are in the $30 to $40 range. While we have not personally tasted them, we assume they are worthy of the higher price and not simply a reflection of the cost of production. If not, it will certainly be hard to compete with their Argentinian counterparts. We anticipate our Malbec to be under $20.
Because of the increased exposure Argentina has given this lovely varietal there is increased curiosity – how does one region handle the production versus another? Have you ever done a horizontal wine tasting at home? Invite some friends over and try a few different versions of the same varietal, same vintage and notice the difference from different states and countries.
Be sure and take notes, because you may not remember too much by the end of the night! And! if you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to our email list over there on the right and be the first to hear when Small House Malbec is released next year.
This post was written by Lisa Gerber as dictated by Patrick Werry. Please share your comments and questions below. We love hearing from you.
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