Malbec – Author Bill Stefan

Malbec – Author Bill Stefan

Malbec Analytical Wine Tasting Report

The label contained: (1) wine name: Phebus; (2) varietal grape: Malbec; (3) vintage: 2014; (4) the quality regulatory control: Gran Reserva ; (5) region where the wine is made in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina; (6 7) wine maker and bottler: Bodegas Fabre; (8) 14.5% alcohol level; (9) description of the wine (“a very complex wine with floral aromas of violet, black cherries, and licorice. On the palate the wine is deep and rich, perfectly balanced with delicate silky tannins and well integrated French oak. Perfect with a juicy steak, game, rich cheeses, and chocolate desserts.”); (10) this wine received a Trophy and Quality Award at the 2017 International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC); and (11, 12) wine-making style from this region is oaked and the sweetness level is usually dry, but this was not actually stated on the label.

The Malbec grapes are grown and the wine made in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza. Lujan de Cuyo is in northern Mendoza, but at a lower altitude than Uco Valley in Mendoza (3,300 feet versus 4,900 feet). Argentina has been growing wines for 400 years. However, it was not until 1994, that Nicolas Catena Zapata is credited with planting the first high-altitude Malbec vineyard (at 5,000 feet above sea level) in Mendoza.

This altitude is what makes Mendoza wines distinctive:

  • Higher altitudes mean slower growing seasons.
  • Higher altitudes also mean longer growing seasons.
  • Sunlight is stronger at higher at altitudes, resulting in more photosynthesis.
  • Increased diurnal temperatures at higher altitudes enhance natural acidity, color, flavor and aroma.
  • Grapes develop thicker skins at higher altitudes. Thicker skins result in more phenolics (color and flavor) and riper tannins.
  • High altitude vineyards have less fertile soil, resulting in smaller berries and more intense grape characteristics.
  • Wineries at high altitudes have slower fermentation times and fuller flavor development.

The wine is clear, brilliant, reflective, and pale yellow.  My first sniff indicated an aged developed bouquet with no faults.  My second sniff indicated a wine with bell pepper, plum, pepper, smoky-char, cherry, violet, blackberry, vanilla, and brown sugar.  The basic tastes indicated a dry wine with smooth tannins and adequate acidity.  The retro-nasal smells confirmed all my initial ortho-nasal smells.  The wine was full bodied, smooth, and without heat from the alcohol, which was 14.5%.  The finish was long, lasting over 60 seconds.  I continued sipping the wine for about 15-20 minutes and noticed additional and stronger berry aromas.

The traditional dish for this wine is Argentinian steak.  Hence the wine label: “Perfect with a juicy steak…”  The alcohol level of 14.5% and the dryness of the wine make it full-bodied.  The thick cut of a spice rubbed barbecued steak (cooked according to instructions for grilling steak) created a high food weight.  This was a fantastic weight match.  The spices rubbed on the steak were a phenomenal bridge ingredient with the pepper, smokey-char and the wood aromas of vanilla and brown sugar in the wine.