Malbec, Argentina's signature varietal wine, is experiencing a well deserved vogue. It is a superb food wine, nicely structured but approachable, and generally well priced. What's not to like?
The same question appears to have motivated moviemaker, hotelier and winery owner Francis Ford Coppola in his introduction of a California malbec into his Diamond Collection of everyday table wines. His 2008 "Celestial Blue Label" Malbec, sourced from Monterey County vineyards, is a fine first edition for winemaker Corey Beck. Like other wines sold under the Diamond umbrella, the malbec is widely available at supermarkets, wine shops and big box stores for about $15 to $16.
This deep red wine starts out with a toasted spice and caramel nose and segues into a burst of dark fruit on the tongue. Black currant leads boldly, ably abetted by black cherry and cassis plus a nice spice edge and just a little dab of caramel bass note. It is well structured, its soft tannins giving it legs. Dark fruits carry through to the long mellow finish, where a hint of anise chimes in for good measure.
Like cabernet sauvignon, with which malbec often is blended, this wine will go beautifully with the red meat of your choice, but it would be yummy, too, with a tapas dish like shrimp and ham sauteed with garlic and red peppers.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.