Christie Kiley on August 17, 2015 0 Comments I never really got Malbec when I would pull a bottle from the shelf of my favorite wine shop in the United States. At the beginning of my wine career, Malbec was something different to try when I wanted something outside of California Zinfandel. It was easy to drink and taste–just pure and simple enjoyment. Not really anything special, it was beyond me why it was all the rage from Argentina. Even after I learned a bit more about wine, it was far from the hype surrounding the grape and its wine. Then it all changed when I moved to Argentina in 2011. Wow…their Malbec was truly amazing! What I had access to in Argentina–even when I was thousands of miles away from the wine regions in Buenos Aires–really piqued my interest. Just a few years ago with our economic crisis, Malbec was accessible to those who wished to spend less on wine but did not want to sacrifice quality and taste. Today, the market for Malbec in the United States does seem to be improving and wine buyers are bringing in more of a variety of Malbec of all price ranges, for all pocketbook sizes and curiosities. This is not your average fruit bomb as it is commonly perceived. This is the grape of Argentina that spans generations and while some styles are fruity, smooth and simple, others are as antiquated, hearty and rustic as is the history of its grand country, Argentina. 2011 Casarena Jamilla’s Vineyard There are possibly hundreds–even thousands–of Malbecs of all different labels to try. For this week, I invite you to try the 2011 Casarena Jamilla’s Vineyard Malbec. The vineyards and winery have made their home in one of Mendoza’s top regions, Lujan de Cuyo. This is where high-desert wine grapes are cultivated and where Malbec thrives. Casarena–which means “Sand House”, referencing the winery’s stucco exterior–is only twenty minutes from the city of Mendoza. Though it all began in 2007, the winery was a project to celebrate a century-old family tradition of making boutique and quality wines. 2007 was when the winery was remodeled and redesigned to create a true state-of-the-art winery. It is here they are able to combine the traditional practices with new technology and innovation. There is a mix of old concrete tanks, new stainless steel tanks and a temperature- and humidity-controlled barrel room fit to house up to four-hundred oak barrels. In their new winery, they are able to hand-craft their wines with more detail, attention and care. For them, it is all about what you make of the raw material from nature, how you respect it and how you create something to represent your land. Wild fermentation is common practice allowing the native yeasts to start the fermentation process. Further on in the winemaking, they also allow for a spontaneous malolactic fermentation. These practices are what make the wines of Casarena truly unique. The Jamilla Vineyard Casarena has four separate vineyards located in the sub-regions of Agrelo and Perdriel in Lujan de Cuyo. Each one has its very own unique terroir, grape variety and trellis system, depending on what style of grapes are grown where and what characteristics they wish their grapes to possess upon maturation. The Jamilla vineyard of Perdriel is planted of 100% Malbec and is a humble eleven hectares. All the vines live in sandy soils with many larger stones scattered throughout. At about 3,100 feet (975 meters) above sea level, these are the perfect conditions for Malbec to grow up healthy. With their vertical shoot trellis system, the grapes are able to spread their branches and create a canopy to shelter their fruit from the hot summer sun during peak season. The canopy is able to do its job and create the food via photosynthesis so that when the evenings cool off, the vineyards can “eat” their food creating a balance of sugars, acid, flavor and aromatics making for great fruit for even greater wine. This is where the magic takes place: when a wine takes on the characteristics of not only the fruit and season, but also the soil from which it is grown. The 2011 Casarena Jamilla Malbec The grapes, which are harvested are manually, are selected both in the vineyards and when they arrive at the winery. Only the best fruit is used to make this wine. After the fruit is destemmed, it is sent to a fermentation tank where it is rested and chilled for about 8 days at low temperatures. The temperature is increased at a controlled rate and this is when fermentation starts with the natural yeasts. When the process is complete, the skins undergo a gentle pressing to extract only the quality wine which is mostly free-run. The wine is not done just yet. It is then put to rest in new French oak for 8 months where it undergoes a spontaneous secondary (malolactic) fermentation. The result is an elegant wine, suited for being enjoyed right away. This wine is also suited to be aged for up to five years. On the nose, mineral notes come through the violet undertones and tobacco and plum aromas. The flavor of deep plum, mature red fruits and a touch of cassis is harmonized with Provencal herbs in its finish. Uncork and enjoy this for the remainder of your summer or kick off autumn with a celebratory glass. This is a wine for all seasons. Cheers!