Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Marqués del Nevado 2011 Malbec Reserva

Producer: Inversiones Corta Hojas Ltda.
Name: Marqués del Nevado
Varietal: Malbec
Region: Valle del Lontué, Valle de Curicó, Valle Central, Chile
Vintage: 2011 Reserva
Tasted: November 16, 2012
ABV: 13%

Chile's rise in the world of winemaking is a wonderful story. European grapes were originally brought to South America by the Spanish colonists, and for many generations Chilean wine was mostly cheap quaffer made for the local yokels. But then an ironic blessing befell the region. When phylloxera struck Europe's vineyards in the late 1800s, scores of prestigious wine professionals found themselves looking for work. It did not take long for word to travel: Chilean (and Argentinian) vineyards were phylloxera-free. To this day, in fact, their vines, which have never been grafted onto North American roots (the cure/prevention which saved European oenology from oblivion), have not been touched by the dastardly vermin. Well, wine experts of all sorts made their way to South America post-haste: grape growers, wine makers, wine blenders, and of course, wine merchants. But through Chilean wine was turned into something respectable in relatively short order, it was still not great.

Then, a few decades ago, Chilean wine underwent a second revolution led by another influx of foreign interest, this one having more to do with capital and operations management than with human resources. The wineries, and the combination of foreign and domestic experts running them, turned their sights northwards. They bet that American consumers would go for an import from their own side of the Pond that was cheaper than even California wine, let alone European stuff. They bet right. Chile still shows the world year-in and year-out that its wines can compete quite handily. The finest Chilean wines command some of the highest prices, and the less pricey stuff, though more expensive than it used to be even in adjusted terms, still flies off of the shelf.

One reason for all of this success, of course, is that Chilean wine has become a high-quality product. The latitudes in Chile in which wine is produced correspond roughly to the Mediterranean, though the winemakers bringing their favorite grapes with them over a century ago came from more northerly places. The most productive winemaking region in Chile is the Valle Central, directly across the Andes Mountains from Argentina's esteemed Mendoza region. Within the Valle Central are a few sub-regions, including the Valle de Curicó. It is in there, finally, that we find the Valle del Lontué, where Inversiones Corta Hojas makes Marqués del Nevado.

The 2011 Malbec Reserva has a wonderful color, rather like a garnet version of red velvet. It looks like it could envelop one in, if not complete luxury, nothing less than head-to-toe comfort lacking nothing. (And heck if that is not luxury!) The wine opens with a mild nose of reds, mainly redcurrant and rhubarb, and also of cedar, though without the punch. The palate is also mild, of red grapes and other reds. It is sweet, not too tannic at all, and medium bodied. Perhaps this Malbec could be a little rounder and fuller; its youth does show sometimes, and I noted while sipping it that I look forward to trying this wine again after some years have passed, to compare and contrast.

But really, the flavors are held up just fine when all is said and done, and it has to do with their ease and lightness. The flavor is tender; it coats the palate gently. Just as a flower petal, no matter how vibrant the color or sophisticated the texture, can naught but brush ever so lightly against the skin as it floats by, this wine, though flavorful and complex, successfully resists the temptation to smack us in the face with sugar or tannins or any other conduit of tasting notes. Instead it maintains confidence it itself for what it is, which is a lively red with delightful flavors, and presents itself simply, honestly, as such.

Yet just like anything humble, the 2011 Reserva wonders of its faults - is its delicateness done to excess? After breathing for twenty minutes it steps its presence up a tad, not too much, not even very much, but enough to let us know that it is open to new ways of expressing itself - and given the flavors present, we can be grateful that it does. The nose is the same as earlier - redcurrant, rhubarb, cedar - but with a degree of pungency. The palate, a little bolder than before, is of strawberry and rhubarb, as is the finish. The body is rounder as well.

Wait years for a change? Silly me. This Malbec has us covered pretty much on the spot. Raise a glass in thanks, and drink it.

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