I think that Jack London would have loved Mendoza, the province in Argentina that produces the country’s best wines. Look at the photograph on the left, which shows a typical vineyard in the region, and then consider these words London wrote about a similar landscape: “I ride over my beautiful ranch. Between my legs is a beautiful horse. The air is wine. The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame. Across Sonoma Mountain, wisps of sea fog are stealing. The afternoon sun smolders in the drowsy sky. I have everything to make me glad I am alive . . .” Given this glorious prose, it is not difficult to imagine London falling in love with the crimson vineyards of Mendoza, with the snow-capped Andes in the background.
Anyone who shares London’s passions for wine and horses, as I do, can readily imagine the depth of his delight at such a moment, and while our busy lives might not permit us to travel to Mendoza, where it is now autumn and snow has already begun falling in the distant mountains, it is possible to savor the wines from this region, and one of the best that I have tasted recently is Antiqal Uno Malbec 2008 ($20). Winemaker Miriam Andrea Gomez has crafted a smooth, beautifully balanced wine, with seductive fruit aromas that lead to delectable plum, blackberry, and currant flavors complicated by hints of mocha and toast, with hints of vanilla and spice emerging on its long, polished finish. This splendid Malbec would amplify the pleasures of most meals, but particularly those that feature grilled meats or pastas topped with savory tomato-based sauces and flavorful cheeses.
While there is considerable springtime charm and ample summer sunshine evident in the generous character of Antigal Uno Malbec 2008, I find that while sipping it I seem to detect something more, something ripe and autumnal deep below its surface, and then I imagine myself on horseback in Mendoza, where the vineyards will soon be a glorious red, including Las Lomas Vineyard, which provided some of the grapes for this splendid wine, waiting for the wind to carry the first scent of snow down from the mountains. But though I am now far from such a wonderful place, I thank Jack London for reminding me that, whenever we have wine this good and this inspiring in our glass, at that moment we have everything to make us glad we are alive.