El Tunel & El Enemigo (El Enemigo, 2008 Malbec)

Brand Name: El Enemigo
Vineyard: El Enemigo
Vintage: 2008
ABV: 14.5%
Varietal: Malbec (93% -Petit Verdot 7%)
Appelation: Uco Valley
Price: ±$24.00 + shipping cost

In lieu of tasting notes indicative of the flavor profile of El Enemigo, the back label presents the wine with a phrase: “Al final del camino sólo recuerdas una batalla, la que libraste contigo mismo, el verdadero enemigo, la que te hizo único”.

To me, the presentation of the wine is symbolic of the inner struggle the wine maker felt as he had to formulate what would be the best varietals, blend percentages, and fermentation processes in order to materialize an idea into something tangible and unique, El Enemigo. The phrase, in English, reads: At the end of the road only one battle is remembered, the one you had with yourself, the real enemy, the one that made you unique.

El Enemigo is a ripe, warm, and velvety Malbec, with a touch of Petit Verdot, wine produced in the Uco Valley, a top viticultural region southwest of Mendoza City in Argentina. The Uco valley is a gently sloping plateau providing a long growing season and average altitudes over 1,200m (3,900 ft) which influences the soil, temperature and amount of sunlight of the region in different ways:
  • Acidity Retention: Higher altitude equates to cooler weather resulting in more acidity retention in the grape. Moreover higher altitude results in a pronounced diurnal temperature variation between the night and the day. The pronounced drop in temperature at night further helps the preservation of natural acids in the grape.
  • Sunlight Intensity: The higher the altitude the higher the sunlight intensity (the strength of the sunlight) resulting in a thicker grape skin. The thicker the grapes skin the higher concentration of total tannins.
  • Long Growing Season: A long growing season provides conditions for the grape to enjoy the benefits of sun exposure for properly ripening of the grape.
  • Crop Yield: The alluvial soil conditions of Mendoza change with higher altitude resulting in soil particles of larger diameter. Larger soil particles result into better drainage which prevents the storage of water and nutrients in the soil which in turn limits crop yield (agricultural output). Due to limited water and nutrients, plants focus its efforts to reproduction by directing energy supply mainly to fruit growth and not in vegetative growth (leaves). The fruit becomes more concentrated in color and flavor to make it more attractive for animals which will help reproduction cycle of the plant by the dispersal of seeds. For humans the concentrated color and flavor results in a better grape to make a wine.
The interaction of climate and geographic characteristics, terruño as it is known in Argentina, were factors kindly displayed by El Enemigo in its structure through reasonable acidity, moderate tannins, and a medium plus body.

Once poured into the glass, El Enemigo displayed brilliancy and minor aging through its intense plum like pigments which were beginning to change from a young purple blue color to an aging purple ruby color. The wine settled into the glass showcasing youthfulness through the moderate intensity of primary aromas representative of the grape: juicy plum and other black fruit notes such as black cherries, blueberries with violet aromas. Minor toasty nuances of cedar and even some eucalyptus emerged from the second glass poured, although in very low concentrations and after ±15 minutes of breathing the wine in the bottle.

On the palate, El Enemigo provides a moderate flavor intensity showcasing a dry, warm wine balanced by the juicy density of black fruit and moderate oak notes of toasty cedar. The finish of the wine is velvety and lengthy. The blend of moderate tannins and a medium acidity level produced a food friendly wine which was paired with a thin crust pizza topped with fresh tomato, basil leaves, and mozzarella. The moderate acidity and tannins worked nicely with the acidity of the tomatoes while the bright black berries flavors worked nicely by brining out the inherent sweetness of the cheese and tomatoes. Though El Enemigo is a food friendly wine, the wine can also be enjoyed with a good conversation, music, or a book.  All in all, El Enemigo offers good flavor and aroma profile at a very reasonable price.

Next time I come across a bottle of El Enemigo, I plan on accompanying its flavors with a grilled coarse salted Tira de Asado (flanken-cut short ribs), one of my favorite argentine meat cuts. The fattiness found in a Tira de Asado will pair nicely with the moderate tannins of the wine while the gaminess and coarse salt of the meat will enhance the fruit flavors of wine. I imagine a meal enjoyed as one of my favorite songs, Por Una Cabeza, plays in the background. Although originally performed by Carlos Gardel, I have fallen in love with a more contemporary cover by Andres Calamaro:

Interestingly, I was not aware of the existence of El Enemigo and I was looking for a different bottle yet I purchased the wine for two motives: First, partially as a result of the recommendation given by the store clerk while I searched for a new Malbec during my last days of vacation in Buenos Aires, Argentina. My second and more significant motivation was the quote on the back label which created a personal connection to a phrase in a book I had just finished reading a few days before: “In any case there was a single tunnel, dark and solitary: mine, the tunnel wherein passed all my infancy, my youth, my entire life.” The book is entitled The Tunnel by Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato Throughout The Tunnel, the main character struggles with decisions and finds himself examining, through probability, the possible outcomes for the choices made; a struggle of decisions, that as I mentioned, the back label of the wine denotes (to me).

I am a firm believer that a good wine should not only create a connection with one’s palate but also a connection between personal experiences and music, almost a nostalgic sentiment.  El Enemigo presented me the opportunity to feel a personal connection to a book and its story, a book given to me by someone special in my life, a wine that not only created a link with flavors I enjoy but also with a people, objects, and experiences.