The black wines are best drunk on a Saturday morning while eating raw slivers of fat goose liver. For this, the place would have to be the Marche Victor Hugo in downtown Toulouse as the food market’s week-end shoppers select produce before heading off to watch the local team play rugby.
This is the land of the Black Wines of the Cahors, so named because the dominant Malbec grape is coaxed into a wickedly dark elixir oozing dark fruit, Asian condiments and chunks of savoury. Just the kind of vino required when eating raw foie gras topped with a grind of rock salt, a snack that will put chest hairs on a Brazilian bottle-nose dolphin.
The wines are pretty tough going, though. Old World Malbec has more wood than Linda Lovelace had to contend with in her first three films and the tannins are robust enough to give a Cape buffalo a dose of itchy scrotum at fifty paces. They are huge chunky, big wines that can have one calling for a blow-torch, an angle-grinder or a 24-hour emergency number.
But then again, the gastronomy of Toulouse and France’s south-west has enough fat to lubricate the total Sydney Gay Parade. Ducks. Pork. Lamb. Potatoes. Lentils. Everything cooked in smoking hot goose fat and covered in ladles of silky smooth grease. The kind of cooking to give Tim Noakes a woody, for sure, but for normal folks a really tough wine is required to get it all down.
The Black Malbec’s do this. They are extracted to the hilt, explode on the palate and half a bottle has you singing Le Marseillaise with your pants around your ankles. (No name, no pack-drill, Monsieur Du Plessis.)
Down here in South Africa we have not had our way with Malbec as the gringos in Argentina have. There are but a handful of producers, and most of the stuff gets chucked into a Bordeaux-style blend.
It was therefore easy to make my Discovery of the Month a pretty little Malbec from Neethlingshof outside Stellenbosch.
The vineyard is just over 10 years old, planted on Tukulu and Vilafonté soils, a perfect combination for extracting optimum fruit expression whilst providing delicate, restrained skins of limited tannin-harshness. Poor soils and a lack of sun result in the brutality of the Cahors wines due to the vines’ exhausting and moody struggle to produce sugar, while the blue skies of Stellenbosch and the randy soils cause the grapes to laugh all the way into the glass.
The Neethlingshof 2011 Malbec got the full monty: Malolactic, oak, rotation tanks, and the wine and grapes seemed to have had a ball since the result is one long and warm smile.
A dark crimson colour leads to an immensely inviting nose of bramble, allspice and wet silk pyjamas. There is smooth power when it hits your mouth and an immediate sweetness, very surprising for a wine of under 2 grams res sugar. It opens up into an orchestral movement of fruit-driven spiciness with a whack of dry sage and Algerian saffron. Smooth, plush and very inviting.
The final word is: delicious. A wet, smooth, enchanting red wine on the verge of excitement which I absolutely love.
Mister Malbec supplier, your goose is cooked.
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