Sunday, 15 April 2012

Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” (2010)

Bodega Raffy’s Malbec “Réserve” is (until the Bodega Raffy Cuvée “Grande Réserve” Malbec comes out the barrel at least) Bodega Raffy’s top red wine. As such, this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is currently the ultimate expression of Malbec released by this estate

Founded in 2007 by Jean-Louis Raffy, Bodega Raffy is a young winemaking venture located in the Tupungato sub-zone of Mendoza (Argentina) and is a winery with an interesting winemaking philosophy.

In the altitude, the torridly hot heat of the day and the cool of the night in Tupungato, Bodega Raffy believe that they have found the perfect “terroir” for one grape and one grape only – that grape being Malbec. Thus, instead of following the lead of many Argentinean wineries that have planted other grape varieties (some of whom have more than 20 different grape varieties planted), Bodega Raffy work only with Malbec, in what they believe to be the perfect environment for it. The result of this dedication to just Malbec is enhanced knowledge of the Malbec grape (and of how it reacts to the specific environment in Tupungato) and ultimately very good wines (as has been evidence by both the Bodega Raffy “Cuvée Terroir” Malbec (red) and the Bodega Raffy “Cuvée Terroir” Malbec Rosé before this).

Whereas the Bodega Raffy “Cuvée Terroir” Malbec (the “entry point” Malbec for Bodega Raffy) is made up of several different parcels of grapes from around Tupungato, the grapes destined for this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” come from a single plot of old and low yielding vines at more than 3,500ft above sea level. The age and altitude are important as vine age reduces yields and increase flavoural concentration in the grapes, whilst altitude thickens the skins (adding depth and structure to the resultant wine).

After hand-picking the grapes for this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” as they were slightly overripe on the vine, the skins of the Malbec grapes were broken before 15% of the juice was removed. (This 15% of juice was then used in the production of Bodega Raffy’s rosé wines). The reduced quantity of juice remaining was then allowed to sit with the unusually high number of grape skins (for that volume of juice) to take on colour, flavour and richness. Fermentation of this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” was in stainless steel before this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” was passed in to oak barriques (225 litre barrels) for maturation. Maturation in oak was for 12 months and 18% of the oak used in the maturation of this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” was new. This Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” was then bottled prior to release in October 2011.

The bottle of this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is tall and weighty (in keeping with the remainder of the Bodega Raffy range) although the label is of a different style to the wines in the “Cuvée Terroir” range. Here, the label of this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is grey and cut to a custom shape, although many of the visual cues (such as the image of the Tupungato Volcano) remain the same. The cork of this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is crafted from a single piece of real cork and is tightly grained so that this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” might withstand medium term cellaring should the purchaser so desire.

Individually numbered (like the other Bodega Raffy Malbec sampled), this 2010 Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is bottle number 2783.
In the glass, this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is clear (i.e. non faulty) and a particularly intense ruby colour. Impossibly concentrated at the centre of the glass, this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is a vivid violet at the rim of the wine – surely a result of the colour and flavour concentrating effect of the “saignée” (“bleeding” off) of 15% of the juice of this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” prior to the completion of fermentation. Usually one might expect a wine that seen 12 months in oak to show a slight rusticity to appear towards at the rim of the glass, however with this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve”  the colour of the wine is so intense that this does not occur. When swirled, the legs of this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve”  are clearly visible denoting a higher alcohol content. Quoted abv is 14.5%.

On the nose, this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is clean (i.e. non faulty) and is particularly pronounced.  Intense and concentrated black fruit and a persistent spice form the bulk of the aromas of this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve”. Developing considerably with exposure to air, once fully ready it is possible to detect both the vanilla influence of new oak and the more toasted note of old French oak within the bouquet of this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve”. A set of aromas that are arresting, intriguing and complex.

Once in the mouth, this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is dry and full-bodied. First lush and rounded ripe dark fruit (plum, blackberry, boysenberry) gives a weighty feel to this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve”, before a prominent and peppery spice breaks through the mid-palate and is sustained (with the fruit notes) through to the finish. Beautifully soft and integrated tannins support the ripe fruit throughout the long length of the palate and whilst clearly imbued with a considerable structure, this Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” never tastes austere. A high level of acidity keeps the palate flowing and stops both the wonderfully ripe dark fruit becoming cloying and the prickling spice from becoming too acerbic.

To sum up this 2010 Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” in a few words is relatively difficult. This 2010 Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is an unusual wine in that it is concentrated (but not overblown), spiced (but not acerbic) and structured (but well integrated) – in short this 2010 Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is full, complex and balanced. It is outstanding.

One could argue that at £15 per bottle this 2010 Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” should be outstanding to justify this price, for it is priced at a considerably higher level than much of the Malbec that comes in to the UK. However, there are Argentinean Malbecs that have been reviewed by The Independent Wine Review in the last twelve months that have cost more than this 2010 Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” and been less accomplished. Whilst there are a rare few “bargains” out there in the world of wine, nearly always the very highest quality wines cost a little more than average and this 2010 Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” is a very high quality wine indeed.

At the risk of continuing the UK’s favourite food pairing cliché – that of pairing Malbec with a chargrilled steak – a slab of beef would make a great partner for this 2010 Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve”. However, almost any weighty main course could be elevated by the addition of this 2010 Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” including stews, other braised meats and heavy pasta dishes. Alternatively pair this 2010 Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” with some hard cheese and good company.
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Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” (2010)

Score: 92/100 – A wonderful expression of Tupungato. Outstanding!

Value for Money: 8/10 – At £15 per bottle this 2010 Bodega Raffy Malbec “Réserve” seems fairly priced for a wine of this quality and rarity (1380 6btl cases were produced).
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