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Senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec has been with Wine Spectator since 1997. She is the lead taster for Australia and New Zealand wines and California Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc and "other" whites.
MaryAnn Worobiec

An Argentinean Red with a Peruvian Meal

Bodegas Atamisque Malbec Tupungato Catalpa Old Vines 2009

MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: November 23, 2011

I know food and wine pairings can be transcendental, but sometimes I’m handed a wine list with an impossible mission: Pick a single bottle of wine to go with a variety of clashing flavors.

This happened the other day while I was at San Francisco's Limon Rotisserie, a hopping Peruvian joint where the aroma of chickens roasting over open flames is intoxicating. I was with a couple friends and, by the time I was given the task of picking out a bottle of wine, the table had already ordered one of these succulent rotisserie chickens, a side of garlic-sautéed vegetables called vegetables salteados and sirloin-stuffed empanadas. Oh, and an order of ceviche to start.

The table wanted a bottle of red wine, which seemed straightforward enough, except that I know from experience that red wine can sometimes make raw fish (let alone raw fish with fresh lime juice) taste metallic and harsh. No one wanted a glass of white or a cocktail to start, so I crossed my fingers, ordered a bottle of Bodegas Atamisque Malbec Tupungato Catalpa Old Vines 2009 ($37 on the list), and warned my dinner companions that the wine might clash with the fish.

When the wine came, it was a pleasantly jammy, rustic and toasty red, with some burly tannins. Straightforward and hearty, it was perfect for a blustery San Francisco night. I rated it 86 points, non-blind.

As expected, the Malbec was a nice match with the smoky chicken and the empanadas, and especially wonderful with the caramelized vegetables. Yes, it clashed with the ceviche, but I was reminded again that—when the food is delicious, the wine is hitting the spot and the company is fantastic—such details don’t matter so much.

• Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated high-scoring Argentinean Malbecs.

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