Fort Mill Times

Wine time: Malbec is the cat’s meow

We like the grape so much, we named our cat Malbec.

The grape itself is originally from Cahors, France. It’s a Bordeaux grape. Because of its high acidity, when grown there, it’s primarily used for blending.

It was first planted in Argentina in 1852 and attracted little attention. It wasn’t until 1994 when Nicolas Catena Zepata planted Malbec in the higher altitude areas around Mendoza it took off. The Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley districts lay at altitudes between 2,800 and 5,000 feet. This part of Argentina, at the base of the Andes mountains, has warm days with cool nights. The Malbec grape needs regular wide temperature swings to mature properly. The environment here allows the grape to mature over a long period of time and develop complex flavors, with lower acidity and more moderate tannins. When grown here, you get wines with dark, almost opaque color, and fruit forward flavors with a smoky or earthy finish. The world took notice.

Argentina has a shaky economy but no restrictions on foreign ownership. In the last 20 years, money and expertise has flowed in and helped to establish the Mendoza area as a wine Mecca with state-of-the-art wineries equipped with the most modern facilities and cutting-edge architecture. Malbec has become the flagship wine of Argentina. They’re responsible for more than 75 percent of the worldwide production.

Like our cat, Malbec wine is typically dark in color. The wines are fruit driven with flavors of plum and dark fruit. It’s food friendly and pairs well with lean red meat, poultry, beef brisket, duck, venison, lamb, buffalo, ostrich and pork.

Duck Soft Tacos with Black Bean Salsa

1 boneless duck breast

1 Tbs. ground chilies

1 Tbs. ground cumin

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. garlic, chopped

Salt and pepper

Black Bean Salsa

1/3 cup black beans

1/3 cup Romano tomatoes, diced

1/3 cup chopped sweet onion

1/3 cup chopped pineapple

1 Tbs. fresh cilantro

Remove the skin, trim the fat, and cut the breast in half. In a skillet, render the fat, over medium high heat until most of it has melted. Blend 2 tablespoons of the duck fat with the cumin, garlic, chilies and paprika, and rub over the breast pieces. Add some of the fat to a skillet, or use the same one, and sear the duck breasts on both sides over medium high heat until breasts are done through (12-15 minutes). Remove from heat, and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes, then cut into thin slices.

For the salsa, warm the beans then combine with the onion, tomato, pineapple and cilantro. Spoon onto soft flour tortillas and top with the duck.

Wine recommendations

One of the attributes of Argentinean Malbec is the exchange rate for the peso against the U.S. dollar is favorable, so you get good wines at reasonable prices.

▪ Septima Malbec 2014, Argentina – about $14. This wine comes from vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley at altitudes above 3,400 feet. This is an elegant, complex wine with a core of plum and subtle layered notes of blackberry and dark cherry. It’s well balanced with soft tannins and hints of vanilla on the finish.

▪ Reunion Malbec 2015, Mendoza, Argentina – about $14. This is a concentrated, full-bodied, food-friendly wine. It’s dark in color with ripe and juicy flavors of plum and cherry with notes of chocolate and spice.

▪ La Posta Pizzella Malbec 2013, Uco Valley, Argentina – about $18. This deep purple wine comes from a vineyard at 3,600 feet. It’s full bodied and well structured with a bouquet of blueberry and boysenberry giving way to concentrated flavors of spicy plum, dark fruit, bitter chocolate and notes of sandalwood, spice and violets on the finish.

Jim and Marie Oskins live in the Lake Wylie area. They can be reached at