Saturday, 3 July 2010
World Cup Wines. Précis: The wines of Argentina vs Germany
Malbec is the wine Argentina does best of all. It's meaty, even beefy, like their famous steaks; it's muscular like Javier Mascherano.
It can be lush, highly scented, packed with dark damson fruit.
Stick to the 100% varietal too - no need to dilute or soften it with cheap Bonarda or Touriga Nacional as you can find 100% Malbecs at lower price levels anyway. That said, regulations allow up to 30% of blending grapes and you will find that the top quality premium versions often contain less than 100% Malbec - and at fine wine prices too.
It's a terrific gluggable red. Malbec really is delicious. And it is so consistent. It's often deep purple red, intense, highly aromatic and plummy fruitful.
Despite it's powerful pack of alcohol, frequently up to 14%, it's much too temptingly drinkable, especially with barbecue charred and blackened red meat. Watch out.
Malbec maintains the standard set in 1978 when Argentina ran out winners thanks to the genius of Mario Kempes, and saw them champions again in 1986 and runners-up in 1990. Argento and Graffigna each create reliable versions in several ranges at prices to suit most pockets.
If you prefer to drink white, and given the alcoholic strength of typical Malbecs, you might think daytime matches probably demand it, Torrontes is the often equally punchy peachy white alternative.
Torrontés is the white wine grape most closely associated with white wine made in Argentina, and Argentina is the New World winemaking country most closely associated with Torrontés. So it makes sense that to accompany any event with an Argentinian theme, Torrontés would be the only white wine of choice.
It's distinctly aromatic, typically heavy with fruits such as apricots and even lychees on the nose, sometimes with scents of roses, soft and smooth on the palate with low acidity but a weighty and flavoursome finish, often with quite an alcoholic kick.
Argento Reserva is as good a representative as many, born of grapes grown at over 5,500 feet in the premium Cafayate Valley of the prime Torrontés region of Salta, it's floral, spicy with menthol, peach and lemon zest and punchy with alcohol at well over 13%.
While the first vine cuttings arrived in Argentina around 1557, German wine history is as old as the nation, viticulture having been established by the Romans.
Riesling is king in Germany. It is the great white grape. Riesling is offered in several great wine styles, ranging from just dry to cloyingly sweet Trockenbeerenauslese, and they vary in strength from just 9% ABV. Prices start competitively, but rare and ancient top quality vintages fetch thousands.
Nowadays lots of authentic German Rieslings offer heady floral scents and flavours and start as low as 9% alcohol so can be quaffed all day long. You'll also find that many German Rieslings aren't dry. Rather, they are off-dry, or even sweet, so just check for the word 'Trocken' on the label, as it means dry. Which is how I find German football.
NB. 'Halbtrocken' literally means half dry i.e. off-dry.
So for easy daytime drinking, I recommend you have your Riesling young and fresh in a crisp and elegant Kabinett.
You could always opt for a German red of course, and while Argentina has its Malbec, the Germans have no muscular wine equivalent, however Teutonic Spätburgunder is Mesut Oezil to Argentina's silky smooth Lionel Messi, and is equally a delightful surprise package - highly prized and highly priced in its intense premium form.
But on the basis that power will prevail:
Malbec 2 Riesling 1