Join us to celebrate International Malbec day on the 17th April – and throughout the whole month of April from the Wine Trust portfolio. We focus on this remarkable grape and above all its adaptation and international style – developed and championed by Argentina – now one of the UK’s favourites. Strictly Come Malbec … time to tango? worth £100 from our stock of exceptional quality wines.
Malbec was originally a French varietal, and historically one of the component parts of the blend in nineteenth century red Bordeaux. Malbec was brought to Argentina – now the world’s most famous home for the grape – in 1852, by Michel Pouget. Pouget was a French agronomist who was hired by the Argentine government to help develop their nascent wine industry – and Malbec World Day is celebrated on April 17, to commemorate the day in 1853 when the then president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento made it his mission to transform Argentina’s wine industry.
The vine was often referred to as Cot in France (which may point to origins in Burgundy!) and when disease all but wiped out the French wine industry in the nineteenth century Argentina became the only country left to have original Malbec vines of French heritage. In fact, today there is very little Malbec at all in Bordeaux and the only serious enclave left in France for the variety is in the South-Western region of Cahors, although the South of France (no doubt in reaction to its success in Argentina) is seeing increased plantings!
By contrast Argentina’s love affair with Malbec saw plantings take off in the 1990s with over 10,000 acres planted. Today plantings top 100,000 acres (compared to less than 10,000 acres planted in the whole of France) with the vast majority of these – some 86% – in the famous, warm, central district of Mendoza. Malbec is a late ripening variety (by that it requires warm weather and/or long autumns to ripen) and seems to like the calcareous, sandy clay soils which are found in the Andes. The combination of these climatic and geographic features helps to define the Argentine Malbec style, which may be described as one of mouth-filling, juicy black fruits, subtle pepper spice, with silky tannins.
Adopting the Right Altitude
Such has been the progress made with Malbec in the Mendoza region that star sub regions have now been identified where superior styles within Mendoza are being produced. A number of these have been formally classified via Argentina’s DOC (controlled denomination of origin) system which protects the authenticity of these areas whilst imposing more rigorous quality demands on vine growing and winemaking.
Today, within Mendoza, the most highly rated Malbec vineyards are found in the higher altitude regions of Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley. These areas are found in the lower levels of the Andes Mountains, anywhere from 800 m and 1500 m in altitude. This elevation (off the hot Mendoza Valley floor) prolongs the growing season (without any loss of ripeness) but lifts both the freshness (acidity) and complexity of flavour in the juice. The result is a more intense flavour and aromatic quality with nuances of black cherry, sweet spice and even some mineral notes in top examples.
Today Argentine Malbec is one of the most enjoyable and highly popular of all red wine styles in the UK. With its rich fruit flavours and medium plus body, it makes an ideal partner to meat dishes, especially beef and lamb, and also works well with richer (roasted) vegetarian dishes, tomato-based dishes and pizza.
From Day One, Wine Trust has championed fine Argentinean wines, led by Malbec of course. The selection below is therefore led by that grape, with a twist – do look at the Pulenta Estate Rosé version of the grape. In fact, the Pulenta Estate, in general, has been a firm favourite throughout that time and is broadly recognised today as one of the country’s leading producers. Respected wine journalist and expert on Argentina Tim Atkin mw has regularly awarded Pulenta Estate 95 points plus and is a constant presence in his Top 100 wines of the year from his annual visit to Argentina. Their entry level La Flor Malbec is one of the best value for money wines on the whole Wine Trust list.
We have extended the Malbec theme out to include some other star Argentine wines which might also be of interest, including a selection across the excellent Pulenta portfolio – do try the superb Gran Corte Bordeaux blend for example.