Thursday, December 20, 2007

Trying New Things (Malbec)

My friends and I thought it fitting to celebrate being half-done with law school with half-price bottles of wine at Shady Grove, a regular Wednesday special. Granted, half-price in a restaurant is still more than you'd pay at a wine shop, but it's a fun way to celebrate with your friends.

I am not a fan of the wine selection at most bars, but this time, Shady Grove had the Pascual Toso Malbec on the list ($7/glass, $32/bottle (or $16 at half-price), and I have been wanting to try a Malbec!

Most people who are casual wine drinkers, or are new to wine, are unaware of the amazing variety of wine that is available. At the most basic level of distinction, there are red and white wines. Then you get into the various grape varietals that compose the wines (which also give them their names).

Most will recognize the popular grape varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, and maybe even Pinot Grigio. It is less often that the casual drinker knows about Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. But there are hundreds, maybe thousands of lesser-known grape varietals that make fantastic wines, whether alone or blended. For an idea of just how many varietals there are, see the Wikipedia list of grape varietals.

Malbec is a grape that has been gaining in popularity (hence its inclusion on the wine list at Shady Grove), and is typically grown best in South America. The Pascual Toso is from a vineyard in Chile (which, by the way, has a fantastic website that you should check out). This is not a blended wine, which means it is made of 100% Malbec grapes, as opposed to being a mixture of two or more grape varietals.

I was really glad I got this Malbec, even if the first glass I had was about 80˚F (I actually asked the waitress to put it in the fridge for 10 minutes, since red wine should be drunk closer to 65˚F). It was very black-fruit driven, but the tannins were really soft. There was still a little bit of a pepper kick to the finish, though, which I thought really rounded out the wine.

It was a great wine to drink with friends, and I got a chance to talk about wine and pique my friends' interest (a little...).

So try new things! Don't always go for what you know you like...if you are unsure, you can always ask for a taste before you buy (especially if you're buying at a place like Shady Grove where they serve all available wines by the glass).

If you are interested in learning a little more about grape varietals and wine, check out the excellent Wikipedia article on wine.