Not only was Portet prescient, but he was talented, too. Clos du Val cabernet sauvignons were remarkably refined and age-worthy. Portet brought Bordeaux winemaking skills to Napa Valley, and his wines were always on my restaurant wines lists and in my cellar. About five years ago, Portet hosted a dinner in New Jersey at which we shared my last bottle of 1981 Clos du Val cabernet sauvignon. It was delightful.
Over the years, Portet and Goelet expanded to Australia and France’s Languedoc region producing first-rate wines at both locations. In 2004, Portet starting making malbec in Mendoza, Argentina, under the label Nandu, which is a native flightless bird. Until now, what has bothered me about malbec from Argentina is its one-dimensional style. Every winery seems to produce a version with a combination of extra-ripe fruit, too much new oak influence, and high and obvious alcohol. The result is a chorus line of wines that taste like black cherry cough drops with a cola finish and palate-fatiguing alcohol levels in the 15 percent range. They are boring.
For the 2010 Nandu Malbec, Portet selected grapes from two vineyard areas in Mendoza. He blended 2 percent cabernet sauvignon with the malbec and aged the wine for nine months, with half in stainless-steel tanks and half in older French oak barrels. This sensible winemaking yielded a red fruit and mild vanilla-scented wine with black fruit flavor carried on a medium body with soft tannins and acidity.
Unlike so many other malbecs, there is no candied aftertaste, nor heaviness from excessive alcohol. Your palate stays fresh.
The 2010 Nandu is ideally suited for grilled steaks, lamb chops and pasta Bolognese. I got as close as I could to Argentine cuisine by enjoying the 2010 Nandu Malbec with grilled pork chops from the Cuban restaurant La Isla in Hoboken. This is an Argentine malbec that you can enjoy throughout your dinner.
The 2010 Nandu Malbec retails for about $18.