Another taste of Vino 101

Every once in a while I try to do a little, general recap on wines just to keep my readership appraised on what is going on out there in the wine world. Sometimes a little information comes along to share or maybe a new trend on wine might pop up or there might simply be a new wine release that is taking the scene by storm. This week I thought I'd go back just a bit to Vino 101 and fill in a few questions that need to be answered. Okay, here we go.

1. What is a Malbec and where is it grown?

Malbec is a native of Bordeaux, France, and has been a wine used, for the most part, for blending with other reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Malbec is a very interesting grape, as it can really give off an almost perfume quality in the nose while remaining true to its black cherry and plum roots.

It just so happens that this venerable red wine grape is doing summersaults in Mendoza, Argentina. All the world is looking south for this grape and the Argentines are pulling out all the stops in producing world-class Malbec.

Malbec has a silkiness to it, as well as some richness in the body and, when well-made, a long and very elegant finish. Most Malbec should be drunk within the 10-year mark but there are some notable exceptions.

The venerable wine expert Gavin Gracey considers this wine to be among his very favorites which is a plus for this fine varietal.

2. So what about corks versus screw caps? What gives?

I'll go out on a limb and say that our grandchildren will never see a corkscrew! Twist top bottles are here to stay and I think it's just fine. The synthetic corks are also going to be around for a time and that's OK, as well.

One of the selling points for me is the low, almost nonexistent occurrence of "corked" wines (wines tainted by a corkiness smell and taste in the wines) in the commercial wine competitions I have judged in the last few years. In previous years there were alarming amounts of wines tossed out due to tainted wine from microbial corks, sometimes up to 10 percent of all wines entered! Today, because of synthetic corks and twist tops, this problem has been virtually eliminated. Just the other night I opened an older red wine from Spain and was really disappointed due to the corky odor of the wine. Bad cork!

Besides the cork tree disappearance problem, the soundness of twist or synthetic wines speaks for itself. As for how long wines will age without traditional cork closures is anyone's guess. I'd bet there will be little difference except to increased soundness in the wine.

There is, of course, the traditional look and feel of popping a cork — the history and the romance. I think on some level this is sad but necessary, maybe not unlike the demise of the LP record and rotary dial.

3. I like red wine and do not like white wine very much. So can I drink red wine with whatever I want?

Okay, this is a tough one and can be a real barn burner among wine professionals.

One school says that it is just fine to drink whatever one wishes with any cuisine being served. This group of wine-drinking professionals as well as folks not in the wine business (not restaurateurs or wine retailers) is very hands-off on the issue and has a live-and-let-live attitude about wine and food pairing. Then there are the traditionalists who swear by the historical matchups between seafood and white wine and heavy fare and red wine.

I really do not think it matters much, as long as you are happy with your choices, although I think that at least trying to experience the historical blends of wine/cuisine are of real value. There is good reasoning behind crisp, white paired with steamed clams or Bandon by the Sea crab. I lean to the more traditional approach and it has served me well all these wonderful wine years!

See you next week!

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