This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20071010.php.
Gallo does Malbec
And now, just as some wine enthusiasts are starting to look around at Pinot Gris/Grigio and other white alternatives to Chardonnay, Malbec is starting to show up as an intriguing option for those bored with Merlot.
Pinot Grigio and Malbec the next big things? Merlot starting to fade? While I'm fairly proud that I wrote that well before the character Miles uttered his famous quote in Sideways, it's hard to believe that just five years later, both of these once-offbeat varieties have moved not merely within range of wine geeks' radar but into the mass market.
And if any further evidence is needed to prove that Malbec has made it, here you have it: Giant E & J Gallo is importing its own brand of Malbec now.
Although Gallo no longer ranks as the world's largest wine company - even more humongous Constellation (formerly Canandaigua) passed it by a couple of years ago - Gallo still calls itself the world's largest family-owned wine company, and it still sells enough wine that, if it were an independent nation, it would rank in the world's Top Ten for wine production.
Gallo got that big by an almost unerring sense for what the market wants in wine at just about every price point. Recent years have seen a remarkable diversification in its portfolio, including the wines that it makes under a remarkable range of labels (from Thunderbird to Marcelina and Rancho Zabaco, just to name a few) and wineries that it has purchased outright (Louis M. Martini being one historic property now under Gallo's roof).
Finally, and increasingly in recent years, Gallo boasts an expanding collection of international wines that it imports into the U.S., in many cases buying the lion's share of a partner's production and offering a bit of technical advice in the winery as well. You'll find loads of Italian wines in this portfolio (Ecco Domani, Da Vinci), a French label made for export (Red Bicyclette); Australians (McWilliams and Black Swan) and a New Zealand wine (Whitehaven).
Indeed, this division appears to be growing so fast that Gallo's Website designers can't keep up. Its stylish "Portfolio" pages,
If Gallo is there, Malbec has arrived. Not that there was any real doubt about that. The deal with Gascón was announced last May. The wines began arriving on U.S. shelves in recent weeks. It's a pretty good Malbec, too, high on the alcohol meter but otherwise rustic and earthy in the old-fashioned Mendoza style that I prefer. See my tasting report below.
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Don Miguel Gascón 2006 Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)
Very dark blackish-purple, dark-garnet edge. Intriguing, fruit and earth, blackberries and damp clay and something surprisingly (and, believe it or not, pleasantly) reminiscent of cigar ashes. Full and ripe, black fruit and subtle earth. Good acidic and tannic structure, though the 14.2% alcohol comes across a bit hot. On the rustic side, but frankly, I'd rather have a modestly priced Malbec in this old-fashioned style than a generic "international" red. U.S. importer: Gascon USA, Hayward, Calif. (Oct. 2, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: Argentina ... Malbec ... beef. Great with juicy burgers. Any questions?
VALUE: No complaints at $10.
WHEN TO DRINK: It's drinking well now and not really made for long-term cellaring, but there's no need to worry about keeping it around for a year or two.
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