WINE | Malbec on the Rise

South American wines have grown increasingly fashionable in the last few years, and no varietal has taken greater hold than Argentina’s signature grape, Malbec, a spicy and robust varietal traditionally used in Bordeaux blends.

According to Nielsen scan data, in the four weeks leading up to March 7, 2009, wines from Argentina, like Malbec, grew 52 percent in dollar value over the same period last year. Additionally, in 2008, Argentina posted the most growth in dollar sales in the U.S. – perhaps in part due to the growth of Malbec.

Andrew Stover, sommelier and director of wine marketing at Washington, D.C.’s OYA Restaurant & Lounge and SEI Restaurant, reports that guests still can’t get enough of this grape. He believes diners gravitate towards Argentinean Malbec because of its similarity to Merlot or Cabernet, although he considers Malbec to be more food-friendly.

“Malbec is the new Merlot,” proclaims Haley Guild, wine director at Bacar in San Francisco, where at any given time the 1,200-bottle wine list includes a handful of high-end Malbec bottles. Stover favors producers Andeluna and Urban Uco by O’Fournier, which “offer loads of dark fruit notes yet have an elegance that some Argentine Malbecs are lacking.” He pairs these Malbecs with lamb or grilled pork dishes, while partnering more extracted bottles with red meat.

Operators joining the trend and offering Malbec, along with other popular varietals, furnish their lists with a contemporary vibe. Plus, pouring them by the glass or in even smaller amounts sparks confidence in guest experimentation, while increasing operators’ sales.


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