2019 Casa de Campo Malbec
More concentrated than Cabernet, more velvety than Merlot, and with more rustic animal intensity Brian Johnson and Angus Young combined, Malbec was once the most popular wine in Europe.
That was when the Russian court couldn’t get enough, the British had to hire mercenaries to ship it past Dutch-controlled Bordeaux, and its wall of tannic savagery earned it the namesake “the Black Wine of Cahors.” But that was back in the 13th century; wars, railways, phylloxera and, finally, the French government took their toll. By 1947 the grape had all but disappeared.
Except where Jesuit missionaries saved it. Crossing the Andes the wrong way, i.e., from Chile, the Jesuits found a land of serenity – Mendoza, Argentina. Four thousand feet above sea level they planted one of the highest altitude vineyards in the world. And they planted Malbec.
Malbec from Cahors and Malbec from Mendoza are wildly different. Gone from Mendoza’s version are the rustic, gamey animal smells of Cahors. Stripped away are the hard, crunchy tannins. Instead, there is a nose of plush strawberry and warm nutmeg spice. The taste is cozy, inviting, and scrumptious. What accounts for this transformation?
Unlike other agricultural products, grape vines make better wine in hard-to-grow places. Vines tend naturally to “take more than their share” and propagate as much as possible in fertile conditions. But in hard-to-grow places, like 4,000 feet up a mountain in Argentina, the vine struggles and yields fall. Lower yields mean fuller, richer fruit.
And Casa de Campo Malbec has maximized the richness of their fruit. To me, Campo is what Malbec is all about. Dense, saturated, and with an intriguing spice component, this Malbec is gratifyingly hedonistic. A touch of strawberry compote on the nose keeps you pouring more. Lovely to drink now (remember that the Southern Hemisphere is a season ahead of us), it will also last for five more years. Cheers!