Needing very little introduction to any of us, Malbec is one of the worlds most loved red grapes. With a dark, luxurious colour and bold tannins, it became synonymous with Argentina. Outside of Argentina, it’s best known for its role in the wines of Cahors, in the south-west of France.
There is a dramatic difference in the character of French Malbec when compared to Argentina, with around 70% of the world’s Malbec now being produced in Argentina it’s likely you’re less familiar with the French style.
French – Savoury, tart, firm tannins, meat and blackberry
Argentina – Fruit dominated, plummy with a velvety texture
Like many new world varieties, it first travelled to Argentina around 1860 from France. Struggling with sensitivity to frost in its native France, the grape quickly began to flourish in Argentina and in doing so, has brought Malbec to wine glasses throughout the world.
It hasn’t always been such plain sailing for the variety in Argentina, however, going back 30-40 years, vineyards were simply overflowing with the grape, especially in Mendoza. To deal with this, the industry quickly began a policy to rip up the vines in favour of something more fashionable at the time. Luckily for us avid Malbec fans today, the strains that survived adapted perfectly, in today’s Mendoza there is little that can claim to be more fashionable!
Taking a quick look through our range, I have endeavoured to narrow my shopping list slightly and arrive at just 5 of my favourites.
Grapes grown in the high, Uco Valley sub-region of Mendoza, are employed to make this robust full-bodied Malbec. The hand-harvested grapes are fermented whole in small concrete vats using indigenous yeast and the wine is moved through the winery by gravity flow: no pumps are used to move the wine. After a 15-day maceration and the malolactic fermentation, the wine is aged for 10 months in new French oak Bordeaux barrels; no filtration is carried out prior to bottling. Full-flavoured, with a classic Malbec palate, plenty of pure, ripe, red and black fruit aromas, backed with notes of vanilla and smoke; it shows a good balance between fresh acidity and supple, silky tannins. The label features the fingerprints and signatures of all the owners. AWARDS: COMMENDED (2013) INTERNATIONAL WINE CHALLENGE 2017 | GOLD (2013) SOMMELIER WINE AWARDS 2017
Here we have a fantastically intense ruby red coloured wine. Its powerful fruit nose and palate can’t help but delight – With dominant raspberry notes and strawberry flavours, this is a great example of why people associate a ‘jammy’ Malbec with Argentina. This fresh and unoaked Malbec is the product of careful hand harvesting in the Mendoza region, the gravity-fed winery ensures the same level of care is carried on throughout the entire winemaking process.
For those of us old enough to remember the 80’s band Yello, and their hit “Oh Yeah.” Dieter Meier, the vocalist is the man behind Puro. Producing organic top-flight wines in the Mendoza region. Winemaker Marcelo Pelleriti fashions the wines here, over the years racking up a number of 100 Parker Points for his time in the French Bordeaux region. This particular tipple is charged with blueberry and violet, followed by classic deep dark unoaked goodness and hints of chocolate and vanilla.
A rich and powerful Malbec that shows a good concentration of blackberry, plum and herbal flavours alongside oak spice from the medium-toast American and French oak employed during the maturation. This flavourful wine is produced in Argentina’s second largest wine producing region, San Juan, where it’s considerably hotter and drier than its well-known counterpart, Mendoza. The rainfall here can be as little as six inches annually, with summer conditions reaching scorching levels around 42 °C. As a result, the premium wine offerings here are largely restricted to the valleys around Tulum. And although it’s worth noting that some of the absolute finest wines the region has to offer here can be produced as high up as 1380 metres above sea level in the Pedernal Valley.
Here I am, throwing in something a little more left-field and an interesting take on what is Argentina’s national variety, Malbec here is influenced ever so slightly with the blending of a white variety, Torrontes. Also, renowned here in Argentina, this style of winemaking is not unheard of and, indeed, is quite commonplace in the wines of Côte Rotie, where a touch of Viognier is added to Syrah. The combination offers a big fruity wine, with notes of liquorice, leather and dark berries. Medium bodied, soft with a balanced level of acidity and good finish. With a range of praises in the world of critics, it enjoyed descriptions like ‘velvety and fun’. This is certainly not a wine to miss. The winemaker behind this refreshing blend is Mauricio Lorca, working and advising at more than 20 of the country’s top wineries, he established Malbrontes himself in 2002. To this day he is one of only a few Argentinian winemakers distinguished by the American critic Robert Parker.
Alternatively, I would like to introduce a variety called Bonarda. Could this make Malbec move over? Is it Argentina’s next red?
This stealthy little number has been enjoying the climate in Argentina alongside is competition, it now accounts for the second most cultivated variety in the country and could be well placed to do some big things. Originating once again from France, it’s not to be confused with Italian Bonarda. The variety displays flavours of cherry, plum spice, violet and tobacco leaf. If you’re not a fan of oaky reds this a diamond in the rough. Initially bursting with fruits, a medium body, juicy but not overpowering acidity and all in all very easy to drink. Try Arido Bonardo here.