2011 Fabre Montmayou Malbec Barrel Selection Patagonia
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Harvest & Fabre Montmayou The Malbec Tightrope on the 40th Parallel

It's one of the places in the world that you must see before you're too old to get there. We, like millions of others, went to see the whales splash over white caps and to watch the penguins waddle. We came to eyeball the utter ruggedness of the landscape, and to feel the force of the wind that knocks small children off their feet. But we, unlike most, came not just for the wind-burned majesty of Patagonia, but to walk its vineyards, which in the hands of a chosen few, are putting out the most refined Malbecs on the planet.

The overnight bus that runs from Mendoza to El Calafate is surprisingly comfortable. The sheets are stiff, bleached clean in the sleeper car. The food, like so much of the fare in Argentina, is hearty. A couple glasses of Malbec kept us sleeping for over half of the ride. When we arrived, we found ourselves surprisingly refreshed, ready to follow Bordeaux emigre, Herve Fabre, wherever he wanted to take us. The recently-named Argentine Winemaker of the Year would put on quite a show.

It would only take one summer day on the coast, then a freakishly chilly night around an open fire, to not only come to understand what brings so many to Patagonia, but why the Malbec grown on the 40th parallel -- apart from Central Otago, the southernmost plantings in the world -- walks a fine line between the full-throttle black fruit intensity of Mendoza and the high-toned vibrancy of Bordeaux's Right Bank.

"People don't realize how hot the sun is in Patagonia," Herve told us. "The wind is cool and dry, but deceptive. We say the sun is dangerous in the high ground of Lujan de Cujo, but in Mendoza we feel the sun, so we're inclined to protect ourselves. In Patagonia, we don't feel anything before it's too late."

Over the course of 48 unforgettable hours, Fabre would take us whale watching. We'd share a picnic lunch, perched on a ridge as the penguins marched in unison below. Then, on each afternoon, we returned to Herve's vines -- to the manicured rows that somehow manage to overcome the peril of the 40th parallel, eking out a small crop of some of the finest, most elegant Malbec in Argentina, never more precisely delineated than in the near-perfect harvest of 2011.

The 2011 Fabre Montmayou Barrel Selection Malbec from this eye-popping Patagonian vineyard is darkest ruby in color. The aromas are rich and precise, a high-toned blend of black cherry preserves and crushed black fruits, tinged with new wood cedar. The attack here seems to walk the tightrope between the black fruit opulence of Mendoza and the more refined lines of Bordeaux's Right Bank. The finish is broad, braced by refined, fleshy tannins.

Just 400 cases made it stateside, 120 of which have been earmarked for WineAccess. This is a must-buy not just for Mendoza Malbec enthusiasts, but for Old World aficionados looking for a one-of-a-kind trip to the 40th parallel.

Tasting Notes

2011 Fabre Montmayou Malbec Barrel Selection Patagonia
"Bright ruby-red. High-pitched aromas of blackberry, licorice, herbs and nutty oak, with an inviting floral topnote. Supple and fairly dense, with lovely berry sweetness and pliancy of texture. Nicely integrated acidity brightens the middle palate. Finishes broad and persistent, with sweet tannins that coat the tongue and incisors. These reds offer terrific value."
89 points -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar

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