Graffigna Centenario Malbec Reserve.
Graffigna Centenario Malbec Reserve.

Graffigna Centenario Malbec Reserve 2011, Argentina

Cost: $12-15

What: Many American wine drinkers will tell you any kind of large bowl glass will do for drinking wine. Others will say even drinking out of a paper cup is OK.

I’m not fussy about what I drink from, but the truth is, the shape of the glass does make a difference. I have tried several different wines in different styles of glasses, and every time the wine tasted better in the proper glass.

So when the Riedel glass company partnered with Graffigna (graf-fen’-ya) wines to design a Malbec glass, I wanted to try it. Riedel was a pioneer in developing glasses for specific wines, and no one had designed a Malbec glass before.

Graffigna Malbec with new Riedel Malbec glass.
Graffigna Malbec with new Riedel Malbec glass.

I drank the Graffigna Centenario Malbec because Graffigna had commissioned the new glass, so it seemed appropriate. I liked the glass, but I loved the wine.

This is an intense, complex wine that looks tempting right out of the bottle. It is a deep red with purple and violet tints on the edges. The aroma is fruit forward, with dark berry notes, hints of sweet spices and delicate black pepper.

Well-integrated tannins and a round, velvety mouthfeel lead to a long, pleasant finish. The dark berry flavors are highlighted by toast and vanilla. There is a nice balance of fresh acidity and ripe tannins.

I decanted the wine 30 minutes before dinner and should have opened it 30 minutes sooner. Serve it slightly chilled and the wine will warm up in the glass.

The grapes are grown in vineyards 2,300-4,600 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains. The vineyards in the San Juan area get 300 days of sun a year, but very little rain, forcing the vines to send their roots deep into the soil.

After fermenting for seven days, half the wine is aged for 12 months in 85 percent French oak barrels and 15 percent American oak barrels. The other half of the wine spends no time in oak, providing plenty of fresh fruit to blend with the oaked wine.

It is ready to drink now but probably will age well for another 5-6 years.

The Riedel designers started with 16 glass designs and narrowed them down to six. Then a dozen wine industry experts tasted Malbec from those six glasses to find the one that best expressed Malbec’s unique tasting notes and aromas.

Malbec even tasted fine with a fruit salad.
Malbec even tasted fine with a fruit salad.

Since designing a Burgundy glass in 1958 Riedel has led the way in designing glasses with different shapes for different wines. The shapes direct wine to various parts of the mouth to highlight the best characteristics of each wine.

The winning design looks much like a Bordeaux glass with a narrower mouth. The base is 3.54 inches in diameter with a stem 3.94 inches long and a bowl 5.32 inches tall and 3.35 inches wide.

And, yes, the wine did taste better in the Malbec glass than in an all-purpose tasting glass. But I’m not throwing away my red Solo cups. Sometimes they’re more handy than the right Riedel glass.

Winery: Graffigna was founded in 1870 by Italian immigrant, Don Santiago Graffigna.
His uncle, Don Juan Graffigna, had immigrated to Argentina from Italy in 1865, bringing with him years of wine expertise and excellent European vine varieties.

They planted vineyards in the Tulum and Pedernal Valleys of San Juan, which have a climate as dry as the Sahara desert with more than 300 days of annual sunshine and great temperature swings between day and night. These conditions create wines that are full-bodied, elegant and aromatic.

The wine is made in three ranges: Graffigna Centenario, Graffigna Grand Reserve and Santiago Graffigna. In 2009 Graffigna was named “Winery of the Year” by the Critics Challenge in the United States.

Graffigna Centenario was created to honor the 100th Anniversary of the winery.

The Graffigna family sold the winery in 1980 and it is now owned by Pernod Ricard, a French premium spirits and wine company.

Graffigna Malbec paired well with green pepper stew.
Graffigna Malbec paired well with green pepper stew.

Goes with: With slightly cooler weather we have been enjoying eating outdoors, so my wife Teri and I moved our bowls of green pepper stew out to the porch. We also had fruit salad and some fresh veggies.

This was a great pairing because the stew has pungent green pepper flavors with acidity from a tomato base. This recipe came from my grandmother and mother, with green peppers stuffed with ground beef, chopped onions, rice and eggs. It’s simmered in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and water.

The Malbec also would go well with grilled seasoned beef, lamb, duck and regional Argentine dishes such as empanadas, or locro and carbonada, two Argentine stews, as well as hardy cheeses.

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