Raka Malbec 2013

JUST THE FACTS

Price: R130 (as of Sep 2016)
Winery: Raka
Varietal: Malbec
Wine Region: Overberg
Country: South Africa

JONO SAYS

Quality: 15/20
Value: 2/5
Ponce Factor: Moderate
Occasion: A companion to Thursday’s Ostrich goulash

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Do it for the education. Unless you don’t care. In which case, do it for the acidity.

If one is expecting an inky purple, velvety Argentine-style Malbec, then you’ll be sorely disappointed, but if you’re prepared for a lighter, dryer, herbs & berries fest, then this guy won’t let you down.
Colour is a clear med intensity cherry-red, providing an apt visual cue for what’s to follow:
Tart red cherries with intense-but-clean acidity, holding glorious length&joined on the caboose by some slightly peppery rocket leaf herbal notes & oak spice.
As Jancis would say, “Average but distinguished”.

Cool climate wines retain more acidity while developing less sugar. Warm climate wines develop rapidly, which consumes acidity, and gives rise to lots of sugar (and also a high potential for alcohol).
Woo-hoo girls always drink warm climate wines.

Goldilocks hits the sauce

Remember that impertinent blonde forest-dwelling vandal-nymph who kept breaking-&-entering to find chairs, porridge & beds that fit her expectations, just so? The one who refused to tolerate too high, too low, too hot, too cold, too hard, or too soft? Well, it turns out that any decent winemaker has a bit of a Goldilocks inside them, waiting to bust out and make some truly bitching wine.
You see, come harvest time, every winemaker needs to decide when to pick the grapes that (s)he will use in their wine. Like with any fruit, pick it too early and it tastes highly acidic, green, astringent, and stalky. Pick it too late, and it tastes predominantly sweet – overly so – in fact, and it can present as nigh on fermented (not in the “yay-verily” sense of the word). So to pick it “just so” is essential if you value both sweetness and acidity. When a winemaker gets this right, the end result is a balanced wine that presents as neither acidic, nor sweet, but is usually ina state of alchemic-mystical-awesome that makes you want to keep drinking until you pass out. Or so I have heard from friends of mine.

In the plant world “fast metabolism” is bad…

When you’re a human trying not to be an orca, boosting your metabolism is the name of the game.

“Fast is good”, said the annoyingly trim betty, with buns of steel.

But when you’re a plant, the opposite is true. If you’re a grape trying to become an epically complex, balanced wine of renown, you want your metabolism to be as slow as possible.

But why?

Well mostly to allow the slow development of sugars, with minimal decline in organic acids (acids get used up during plant respiration).

But why?
Well, because…
1. a fast metabolism needs lots of food (think teenage waterpolo jock).
2. The need for food in a plant triggers rapid cell respiration, and the production of sugars to feed aforementioned waterpolo plant jock (depending on which analogy stuck with you most).
3. Rapid cell respiration consumes organic acids, leaving nothing left to balance all those newly produced sugars…
4. It also causes rapid fruit growth, diluting all the goodness that may be left, while also failing to leave time for other amazing chemicals to develop before all the organic acid is consumed like Cornish pasties on a Friday.

(If you want more detail, “get thee to a university”).

How does this help me to sound more poncey at dinner parties?

Well, if you remember all those hours ago when we were talking about Raka’s brightly acidic red fruit Malbec that was in no way a velvety, sweet, dense, black fruit Argentine-type Malbec? Well, the reason behind it all comes down to a glorious union between the awful botany and organic chemistry that we just dragged you through…

Cool climate = acidic & dry in style ; Warm climate = sweet, full & fleshy in style

Botrivier happens to have at its disposal a rather cool Atlantic-fed lagoon that brings cool breezes in over the land, reducing temperatures in the months prior to harvest.

Cool temperature slow down a grape’s metabolism, which means the ripening process takes longer, acidity is preserved, and sweetness levels are reduced.

Put yourself to the test:
Why not put your newfound organic acidity theory to the test:
1. Pick a grape variety.
2. Pick a vintage.
3. Buy two wines – one from a cooler region (Elgin, Hemel-en-aarde, Botrivier, Constantia) and one from a warmer region (Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Swartland, Darling), decant both, and see if you can tell which is why purely by focussing on sweetness and acidity.

About the Author

Jono Le Feuvre is not a bean counter. He is a bean roaster. Bean roasters carry far more street cred & get to speak at bizarre niche gatherings of enquiring-but-unhinged-minds. They also usually have addictive tendencies. When he is not roasting beans he is pulling corks. Or deftly removing screwcap enclosures. But you can read more about him here.