Malbec. Originally associated with the South of France, this amazing grape is now probably most synonymous with Argentina.
It makes sense then that, when you think Malbec and food, you probably envisage a juicy steak, cooked rare and served with a vibrant, fresh chimichurri verde sauce. What could be more Argentinian?
However, when we picked out our bottle of Punto Final at Askewine on a recent frosty Friday night after work, we were on the hunt for one thing: spice. We needed something to warm our bones… and wet our whistles.
Knowing that we’d be indulging in some pretty decadent chocolate mousse and dessert wine later in the night, we decided to snub the obvious food pairing in favour of another South American classic; chilli.
We actually cooked a vegan version, packed full of goodness and with a few squares of the dark chocolate we were using for our mousses, to tie in with the notes of chocolate we were promised by the wine label. The food prep started and we uncorked the bottle, aerating the wine as we poured it into our glasses.
Not all reds need aerating, by the way – certainly not those with low levels of tannin like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. But, if you’re drinking a young, intense red that’s high in tannin (like a Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon); you can enhance the flavours of the wine by either decanting it and letting it breathe, or aerating it by the glass. This simply softens the tannin slightly, which should help to bring out a nice balance of flavour.
The Punto Final was such a beautiful colour: an intense, deep ruby in the centre with a lighter ruby tinged edge. The combination of a rich, almost opaque centre and a tinged edge is a sign that you’re drinking a young red wine.
On the nose, we were hit by aromas of black cherry, smokiness and black pepper – and we’d hit the mother lode with the spiciness!
I could drink this wine all day… ALL. DAY.
You know when people talk about mouthfeel? It’s essentially a way of describing how much of your tongue and mouth the wine stimulates. There are some wines that feel a bit thin, and this might be because it’s not very well balanced. The Punto Final fills every single crevice of your mouth without being overwhelming. Everything is in perfect equilibrium.
The high tannin, which puckered the inside of my mouth, was levelled out by a great streak of acidity, which made my mouth water – rehydrating my very slightly shrivelled cheeks. There was a brilliant peppery spiciness, followed by the heat of the alcohol and I could taste sweet blackcurrants on the very tip of my tongue.
Once I’d swallowed that glorious mouthful, the heat travelled down my throat, warming me up from the inside. Top that off with a lovely, long, fruity aftertaste and you’ve got a bloody good wine. I’d even been tempted to say it was ‘outstanding’.
This really is good enough to drink on its own but, with the food, that heat and our enjoyment were taken to another level. Generally, if you detect spice in your wine and you pair it with spicy food like a curry or our chilli for instance, you’ll find that the spice in the wine is really accentuated. This was no exception!
The chilli was bursting at the seams with different flavours and textures: sweet softened onions, an array of spices and herbs, tangy chopped tomatoes, bitter dark chocolate, crispy sweetcorn roasted with salt and lime juice, the vegetal taste of the spinach, and a multitude of different beans. Every element of the chilli was reflected and emphasised by the complexity of the wine.
We listened to the undulating tones of James Vincent McMorrow’s new album (particularly enjoying Rising Water and Get Low). If JVM was a glass of wine, he’d be this Malbec – low bass notes (tannin) being spliced apart by his high tenor voice (acidity); his songs have heart (sweetness) but they’re also a bit sexy (spice).
Let me stop myself before I become a complete wanker.
After finishing, we were left with healthy chilli sniffles, a wonderful feeling of toastiness in our mouths and a general glow of wellbeing – think slow blinking and sleepy smiles.
This is definitely one to try if you’re looking for a wine that really sings with food, whether it’s steak, chilli or even a curry. As long as there’s some spice, you can’t go far wrong.
You can find the Punto Final Malbec 2015 in Askewine in Shepherd’s Bush for £10.99 or buy it online for £10.00 per bottle, in a case of 6: https://www.winedirect.co.uk/bodega-renacer-punto-final-mendoza-malbec-clasico-2015?manufacturer_id=1538