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Through the Grapevine: You, too, can have your GatoNegro moment.


GatoNegro 2014 malbec
Mendoza, Argentina

Grade: A-

I must preface this review by stating that malbec is my favorite wine, and probably my most purchased varietal. I like it for its complex flavor and smooth finish. But I promised myself I wouldn’t let that influence my opinion of GatoNegro’s 2014 malbec. And, at $5.99 per bottle, I wasn’t expecting much. After countless other times reviewing my favorites have ended in a wine-induced depression that left me crying into the glass (you think I’m kidding), I was determined, in fact, to hate this wine.

But then I read the back of the bottle, which stated, “GatoNegro is a wine for those occasions when you are with your friends, your loved ones or just by yourself, and you want to enjoy the moment in a relaxed and simple way.” If you’ve read my previous reviews — which often invoke imagery of candles and bathrobes, musky cologne and several references to the Barefoot Contessa — you know this describes me to a “T.”

The bottle continued with, “Forget about your worries. You are just about to enjoy a GatoNegro moment.”

My body was ready.

As I held the glass up to my nose, fully prepared to be underwhelmed or utterly repulsed, I was surprised by the bold, rich aromas of blackcurrant, blackberries and cherries. I pondered what witchcraft deceived my senses like this, as the tantalizing aroma fumed into my nostrils. At the top of the aroma resided anise, nutmeg, clove and vanilla, complemented by toasty wood notes. If my prior experiences were any indication of a wine’s quality, I could tell this would be a winner.

And a winner it was. On the first sip, I admittedly became weak in the knees. How could I not, when a bright burst of jammy flavors erupted on my palate and a wash of fresh juices cleansed my vulgar soul? On the tongue, GatoNegro offered a palatable bite, a resounding sweetness and a smooth tannic finish. Off-dry as it was, its flavors melded into a chorus of notes that sounded as though they were performed by the finest Italian opera.

As for its mouthfeel, it was as thin and exhilarating as the cool Andean air. It practically took my breath away, but I was spared by denser, earthen qualities — spice, smoke and, dare I say, cedar — a firm baseline that complemented the melody. For once, I agreed with the winemaker in describing the flavor of this wine, which is described as possessing “silky tannins, coming subtly to the forefront and giving a lingering finish.”

The malbec grape has come to dominate the landscape in Argentina, a long way from its home in France, where it was part of the original Bordeaux blend. And winemaker, GatoNegro has an impressive reach. The brand is part of the Vina San Pedro Tarapaca wine group, which owns seven wineries in Chile and two in Argentina, including La Celia in Mendoza, Argentina  where GatoNegro’s malbec is bottled. GatoNegro is unique, though, in its approachability. This brand does not tailor to the pretentious sommeliers of the Old World. Instead, GatoNegro has marketed itself as a quality wine for millennials, with a parkour-inspired ad campaign in which parkourists flee to city rooftops to enjoy GatoNegro wine.

It’s a bit of a stretch, but I have to give them credit for trying — they lured me in, after all.

This malbec is impressively fruity with a complex range of flavors. I mentioned before that malbec is my favorite wine varietal, but believe me when I say that didn’t sway me. GatoNegro proved itself in terms of flavor, aroma and body, respectively, although I do not believe all three components worked in concert.

The altos, acting as aroma, were in tune with perfect timbre. But, as altos tend to be, they were too loud. The sopranos, our flavor, sounded lovely, but perhaps one diva tried too hard to be heard. Where were our tenors? Probably singing with the altos or trying to convince themselves they were basses. Speaking of our basses, the jocks of the choir who haven’t yet exited puberty, they just couldn’t reach their lowest notes. Overall, the wine lacked proper balance.

But, really, at $5.99 per bottle, balance is not cause for concern. Instead, be more concerned with appreciating what is offered: a decent glass of Argentina’s most famous wine. If you are an Old World purist or of like-minded values, please, don’t even bother. You won’t enjoy this wine.

But if you’re like me, and enjoy something modestly-priced with a little sass, this is the wine for you. With this malbec you too can parkour your way to city rooftops. You can enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner for two, or — why the hell not? — a romantic candlelit dinner for one. You are all you really need. With this malbec, you too can have your “GatoNegro moment.”

GatoNegro 2014 Mendoza malbec can be purchased at Burby and Bates in Orono for $5.99 for a 750-milliliter bottle.

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