World Malbec Day Review: 2014 Bodega Norton Barrel Select Malbec

17 04 2017

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

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Happy World Malbec Day!

Happy belated Easter to all – I hope your long weekend was filled with family and food and chocolate and wine in some order.  If you headed back to work on Easter Monday and were feeling the post-holiday blues, fear not, because there is another event on today that’s worth celebrating:  April 17th has been designated World Malbec Day, a designation I would bet many people choose to live out far more often.  In a blink sometime in the last decade, Malbec went from being an overlooked Bordeaux blending grape and an esoteric dark and chewy hidden treasure from Cahors to Australian Shiraz’s heir as the friendly, fruity, powerful gateway drug into the wonderful world of wine.  Whereas I stumbled onto Yellow Tail sometime in the early 2000s and worked my way up from there, nascent wine lovers today are heading to the previously non-existent Argentina section of their local liquor store and starting their odyssey with the grape, one that will hopefully last a lifetime.

FullSizeRender-586Bodega Norton is a good microcosm of the Argentinian wine industry as a whole.  It has a lengthy history, founded way back in 1895, and has a number of old-vine vineyards to its name as a result; however, it remained a relatively small and local operation until less than 30 years ago, until the concept of Argentina exporting wines gained a foothold.  Norton was sold in 1989 to Gernot Langes-Swarovski, the dauntingly named and exceedingly rich Austrian of Swarovski crystal fame.  To this day, the Bodega’s vineyards and operations are run by Swarovski’s son, Michael Halstrick, keeping the family involved in a very hands-on way in the estate.  Norton was one of the early adopters of an Argentinian wine export strategy in the 1990s and is now found in over 60 countries, one of South American wine’s biggest global presences.  Its grapevines are strewn across five different vineyards at the foothills of the Andes, many of which lie almost a kilometre above sea level in some of the most stunning viticultural land in the world.

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Stelvin Rating: 7.5/10 (Colour, design, artistry – loving the effort. Needs some modernizing?)

Norton’s Barrel Select lineup is a value-oriented set of wines seeking to combine proper oak barrel aging (as opposed to cheaper oak-adding alternatives) with an entry-level price tag.  The Malbec from the Barrel Select portfolio comes from grapes grown on 15-30 year old vines in Mendoza’s Lujan de Cuyo subregion, which is found in western Mendoza, due south of the city of the same name.  After fermentation, half of the lot is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels while the other half retains its primary freshness; the combined final product is then held for another 6 months in bottle before release.  The result is a surprisingly translucent ruby-purple wine that is neither as thick nor as heavy as I expected.  A smoky, flowery nose showcases its oak influence without going overboard:  cedar and asphalt aromas swirl around grape and blackberry fruit and accents of violets and spice.

FullSizeRender-584Tangy and juicy on the palate, the Barrel Select is not a structural monster but features enough acid to keep things together and subtle papery tannin, wrapped around a heart of blueberry, cocoa powder and anise.  Savoury tomato notes and a hint of green leafiness lingers around the edges.  The wine starts to show its seams a little bit on a dusty, bitter-tinged finish, but it’s varietally correct and perfectly drinkable with Monday night World Malbec Day dinner, particularly at this price point.  Enjoy your holiday!

86- points

$10 to $15 CDN

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Stelvin LUX!

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