Category Archives: Malbec

Raka Malbec 2013

TLDR: Do it for the education. Unless you don’t care. In which case, do it for the acidity. //
Quality: 15/20 //
Price: R130.00 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value:  2/5 //
Ponce factor: Moderate //
Occasion: A companion to Thursday’s Ostrich goulash//
Key words:  Cool climate, Acidity //

Vivino rating //

Tasting notes:

If one is expecting an inky purple, velvety Argentine-style Malbec, then you’ll be sorely disappointed, but if you’re prepared for a lighter, dryer, herbs & berries fest, then this guy won’t let you down.
Colour is a clear med intensity cherry-red, providing an apt visual cue for what’s to follow:
Tart red cherries with intense-but-clean acidity, holding glorious length&joined on the caboose by some slightly peppery rocket leaf herbal notes & oak spice.
As Jancis would say, “Average but distinguished”.

To fill those awkward silences…

TL;DR Cool climate wines retain more acidity while developing less sugar. Warm climate wines develop rapidly, which consumes acidity, and gives rise to lots of sugar (and also a high potential for alcohol).
Woo-hoo girls always drink warm climate wines.

Goldilocks hits the sauce

Remember that impertinent blonde forest-dwelling vandal-nymph who kept breaking-&-entering to find chairs, porridge & beds that fit her expectations, just so? The one who refused to tolerate too high, too low, too hot, too cold, too hard, or too soft? Well, it turns out that any decent winemaker has a bit of a Goldilocks inside them, waiting to bust out and make some truly bitching wine.
You see, come harvest time, every winemaker needs to decide when to pick the grapes that (s)he will use in their wine. Like with any fruit, pick it too early and it tastes highly acidic, green, astringent, and stalky. Pick it too late, and it tastes predominantly sweet – overly so – in fact, and it can present as nigh on fermented (not in the “yay-verily” sense of the word). So to pick it “just so” is essential if you value both sweetness and acidity. When a winemaker gets this right, the end result is a balanced wine that presents as neither acidic, nor sweet, but is usually ina state of alchemic-mystical-awesome that makes you want to keep drinking until you pass out. Or so I have heard from friends of mine.

In the plant world “fast metabolism” is bad…

When you’re a human trying not to be an orca, boosting your metabolism is the name of the game.

“Fast is good”, said the annoyingly trim betty, with buns of steel.

But when you’re a plant, the opposite is true. If you’re a grape trying to become an epically complex, balanced wine of renown, you want your metabolism to be as slow as possible.

But why?

Well mostly to allow the slow development of sugars, with minimal decline in organic acids (acids get used up during plant respiration).

But why?
Well, because…
1. a fast metabolism needs lots of food (think teenage waterpolo jock).
2. The need for food in a plant triggers rapid cell respiration, and the production of sugars to feed aforementioned waterpolo plant jock (depending on which analogy stuck with you most).
3. Rapid cell respiration consumes organic acids, leaving nothing left to balance all those newly produced sugars…
4. It also causes rapid fruit growth, diluting all the goodness that may be left, while also failing to leave time for other amazing chemicals to develop before all the organic acid is consumed like Cornish pasties on a Friday.

(If you want more detail, “get thee to a university”).

How does this help me to sound more poncey at dinner parties?

Well, if you remember all those hours ago when we were talking about Raka’s brightly acidic red fruit Malbec that was in no way a velvety, sweet, dense, black fruit Argentine-type Malbec? Well, the reason behind it all comes down to a glorious union between the awful botany and organic chemistry that we just dragged you through…

Cool cliamte = acidic & dry in style ; Warm climate = sweet, full & fleshy in style

Botrivier happens to have at its disposal a rather cool Atlantic-fed lagoon that brings cool breezes in over the land, reducing temperatures in the months prior to harvest.

Cool temperature slow down a grape’s metabolism, which means the ripening process takes longer, acidity is preserved, and sweetness levels are reduced.

Put yourself to the test:

Why not put your newfound organic acidity theory to the test:
1. Pick a grape variety.
2. Pick a vintage.
3. Buy two wines – one from a cooler region (Elgin, Hemel-en-aarde, Botrivier, Constantia) and one from a warmer region (Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Swartland, Darling), decant both, and see if you can tell which is why purely by focussing on sweetness and acidity


Anura 2014 Malbec Limited Release

TLDR:  Moderately interesting, moderately pleasant, moderately overpriced //
Quality: 14/20 //
Price: R145.00 (as of Sept 2016) //
Value: 2/5 //
Ponce factor: Low //
Occasion: Book club //
Key words: New World, Single-variety//
Vivino rating //

Tasting notes:

A decent offering with moderate intrigue value, but at R145, it’s a touch over-priced.

Almost a year has passed since my last blind tasting of this wine, & the scores have remained unchanged.
Colour is probably still the loveliest thing about it; more opaque than the President’s finances.
Speaking of the President, the palate holds some seriously dense fruit that seems to hang around for ages.
Again those classic Malbec-ish sweet tobacco & aromatic pine-resin notes mingled with the lingering black fruit tail.
The wine is soft & fruity enough to enjoy solo, but is certainly in no danger of being a fruit bomb.

To fill those awkward silences…

Uppety wine snobs will tell you that South Africa makes poor malbecs, but that hasn’t stopped our winemakers from trying. On occasion, they produce something quite lovely. Anura’s Limited release 2014 vintage is one such wine.

For folk who like a little history (but just a little), the short version of the Malbec story is this:
In the Cahors region, South West France (where they were called “Cot”) plantings of the grape have been in decline, mostly because they are kind weakling in nature, and often get wiped out by frost or disease. Grapes like Cab franc are a little hardier, and so risk-averse farmers have steered clear of Cot/Malbec where they have had the choice.

In Argentina, however, the warmer climate seems to have treated the grapes quite well, and the results have been some delightfully large black-fruit-driven velvety reds, lacking the sometimes austere tannic nature of their French counterparts.
Argentina’s success with the grape has grown to the point where any Malbec anyone ever raved about was nigh on guaranteed to come from the Mendoza region of Argentina. Argentina has even declared Malbec to be their “national grape”. Needless to say, in Argentina, Malbec is kind of a big deal.
Now whether the frenzied devotion to the grape was warranted or not, the global success of the Mendoza Malbecs spread confidence to other New World winemakers in regions with warmer climates. Our Stellenbosch is one such region (though there are other regions producing great Malbecs too).

If you enjoy this guy, look out for the following South African Malbecs:
1. Doolhof Signatures Malbec (Stellenbosch)
2. Paul Wallace Black Dog Malbec
3. Annexkloof Reserve Malbec
4. La Couronne Malbec
5. Mt Vernon Malbec