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It’s no surprise that the country with the best parilla (barbecue) restaurants makes a great wine to drink with grilled meat. Argentina’s Malbec—smoky, savoury, and brimming with sweet fruit—is just made for dinner on the deck. The Alamos 2008 from Catena, the house that put Argentina on the world’s wine map, is new-style Malbec: bright crimson, fresh, and youthful with soft tannins and tart cherry and spicy plum flavours perched atop elements of coffee and leather. Brush a flank steak with Dijon mustard, season with salt and pepper and grill four minutes per side—and count the money you saved by eating in.
Familia Zuccardi’s Fuzion has sparked plenty of debate, selling thousands of cases when the Argentinian blend debuted in Quebec two-and-a-half years ago. (It’s also held the top berth in Ontario for the last year.) Trumpeted by some as a fabulous bargain and trashed by others as no better than Yellowtail, the truth lies somewhere in between. At $8.95 you can’t expect complexity and you don’t get it. But for penny-pinchers and daily drinkers it’s one of the better buys under $10, a straightforward screwcapped blend of Shiraz and Malbec, light and juicy, with some simple, sweet plum fruit spiced with pepper. A case won’t last long in our house.
Robert Hill Smith dreams of being not Australia’s best winemaker, but its most interesting. He certainly has the pedigree: a fifth-generation winemaker in the Barossa, Smith imports DRC and other iconic names as well as owning a major vine nursery and an intriguing portfolio of labels (ranging from the bargain Oxford Landing range to the stunning Heggies Vineyard) under the banner of 160-year-old Yalumba, the country’s oldest family-owned winery. On a spring visit to Vancouver, Smith was keen to talk about the challenge of grounding Australian wines so that they taste of “somewhere” rather than “anywhere.” For the man who made Viognier a household name, the trick is “to do the little things brilliantly.”
Click here to view this month’s featured wine event.