Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

Saved by the food

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With a few blessed exceptions, South American wines aren’t my cup of tea. But hope springs eternal and every now and then I buy a few bottles for a tasting or my table as a kind of reality check. Which is how I ended up with this new arrival, a popular Argentinean Malbec. One of my issues with these wines is their lack of versatility: what can you serve them with besides a grilled hunk of red meat? Unwilling to dig the barbie out of the snow and brave minus 10 degree temperatures and stuck foraging at the local green grocer, I came up with a stir-fry of beef tenderloin and chorizo that actually did the wine a favour and was fast and tasty enough to make again. You’ll find the recipe after the jump. But first, the vino.

Malbec 2010, Terroir, Valle de Uco, Altos Las Hormigas ($21.25, 12068379)
100% Malbec from several vineyards. Manually harvested. The different lots of grapes are vinified separately. After gentle pressing, the grapes are cold macerated for five days at 10ºC in stainless steel tanks. Alcoholic fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) at 28-30ºC lasts for 12 days with three pump-overs a day and three rack-and-returns. About two-thirds of the wine is matured in French oak barrels. 14.5% ABV.
Strawberry, black raspberry, chocolate, dried herbs, earth and red meat, faint cinnamon and bacon. A sip and the wine shows super ripe and juicy but doesn’t tip over into fruit bomb territory. Why? Well, the initial lollipop fades fast, giving way to earthier, more savoury flavours. Plus it’s not monolithic: the sugar’s held in check, there’s some souring acidity and the tannins, round at first, gain some astringency and grit as the wine wends its way through the mouth. Unfortunately, though the fruit per se isn’t devoid of appeal, the oak starts drawing attention to itself, a sad reality that persists through the flaring, chocolate-kirschy finish. Many, maybe even most, will love this but I found it cloying and inebriating, far from undrinkable but not delivering much pleasure. Something’s not right when you have to rely on the food – and not light food at that – to refresh your palate and rescue the wine. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

Stir-fried Beef and Chorizo

Peel, trim 1 large onion and cut it into thick wedges. Core 1 red bell pepper and cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes. Peel and thinly slice 2 cloves garlic. Slice 170 g (6 oz) spicy chorizo into rounds 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) thick. Cut 200 g (7 oz) beef tenderloin into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes. Rinse and spin-dry 2 large handfuls arugula or watercress. Divide the greens between 2 plates.

Place a cast-iron skillet or wok over high heat. When it begins to smoke, add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Working quickly, add the onions, stirring and tossing until they turn brown in spots, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and stir until it colours at the edge, about 30 seconds. Add the red pepper and stir-fry 1 minute more. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl, leaving behind as much oil as possible.

Return the skillet to the burner and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Drop the chorizo slices into the skillet and stir-fry until they begin to brown, about 1 minute. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper and stir-fry until browned but still rare in the centre, about 90 seconds. Return the vegetables to the skillet and toss until hot, about 30 seconds. Spoon the stir-fry onto the arugula and serve immediately.

Two servings

Written by carswell

March 17, 2014 at 08:08

Posted in Recipes, Tasting notes

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. “One of my issues with these wines is their lack of versatility: what can you serve them with besides a grilled hunk of red meat?

    Do Argentinians eat something apart from a grilled hunk of red meat? 😉

    Julien Marchand

    March 18, 2014 at 07:16

    • Point taken, Julien. I’ve never been south of the equator but to go by, say, the menu at L’Atelier de l’Argentine (, non-grilled, non-beef dishes are relegated to the back seat (or maybe the trunk!), which may well explain the country’s penchant for oaky, fruit-driven reds. The other evening, the only time I derived enjoyment from the ALH Malbec was when I took a swig immediately after chewing the rare beef and spicy chorizo, which briefly disappeared the oak and added savour to the fruit. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking how much more I would have been enjoying the dish with one of Mâmârutà’s reds.


      March 18, 2014 at 14:52

  2. […] another five or maybe even ten years. Probably not the first choice for a grilled T-bone (look to Argentina for that), this would accompany braised meats, grilled veal chops or meat pies to perfection. It […]

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