A Taste of Argentina’s Malbec: Keeping with the Times
When it comes to Argentina and wines, Malbec is the name that comes to mind. Malbec is to Argentina as the Empire State Building is to New York: you cannot imagine one without the other. The country loves this vino so much that they even dedicated a day to honouring this blend.
Putting Roots Down
The Malbec grape is almost always associated with Argentina by default, yet the roots of this deeply-coloured grape traces back to France. It is known as Cot in Cahors, France– its original homeland. It was then brought over to Argentina by agronomist Michel Pouget in 1852.
Since then, it has taken roots in the rich terroir of the country, evolving to take in the unique characteristics of the land, climate, and region. The grape is grown throughout the country, but it is along the eastern edge of the Andes that it has truly found a strong foothold.
There are now 76,000 acres (30,000 hectares) of land growing Malbec throughout Argentina, six times as much in Cahors.
Playing with Malbec
In its adopted home, Malbec is celebrated for its ability to produce large volumes of fruity, juicy, uncomplicated wine at a reasonable price. While it is tradition not to mess with the blend, there’s a new wave of Malbecs that deserve to be paired with more than just barbecued or grilled food.
Mendoza, an Argentinian wine vault, and Salta are home to a growing movement that aims to play with the flavours of what is considered the country’s signature red wine grape.
We take a look at some of the wineries that have some of the most notable Malbec vintages:
Microwinery PerSe Vines by Edy del Popolo has barely four acres (1.5 hectares) of vineyards located in Gualtallary in the Tupungato Department. The vineyard grows mostly Malbec with some Cabernet Franc; their wines combine the two in different proportions.
Del Popolo’s winemaking philosophy is described as a non-interventionist viticulture; he wants the region to express itself through the wines without leaving his fingerprints on them.
“Our greatest wish is that our wines express their origin as purely and as transparently as possible, with no intervention on our part other than that of the daily rhythm of the punch-downs,” the winery explained.
The PerSe Jubileus, a wine blend made mainly of Malbec and some Cabernet Franc, is a joy to drink with ripe tannins, while their La Craie (another blend of Malbec and Cab Franc) has a restrained elegance to it that faintly masks hints of citrus (orange and lemon zest).
Fincas y Bodegas Montechez in Mendoza’s Valle Uco is larger in size compared to PerSe, with 100 hectares of vineyard.
Their aptly-named Vivo is a bright, vibrant wine made with 100% Malbec and designed for early drinking. It is aged briefly (six months) in French and American oak barrels. The Reserva has an elegant discreteness to it thanks to a slightly longer stay in used barrels. The Limited Edition, meanwhile, is the aristocrat of the Vivo wines: very dark purplish red, with an intense fruity and floral aromas.
On the nose, whiffs of black cherries, licorice, and plums will hit you first. It’s followed by vanilla, caramel, and a toastiness that comes from the aging in new and used French oak barrels. Overall the Limited Edition is complex yet well-structured, with a very long finish.
The Bodega Lagarde in Luján de Cuyo comprises of around 245 hectares, which includes a plot of century-old Malbec vines. The estate is one of the oldest wineries in Mendoza, having been founded in 1897. Nevertheless, the wine house looks resolutely forward– “honouring the past, imagining the future” as their motto goes.
Their iconic flagship Henry Gran Guarda N°I wine is regarded as one of Argentina’s greatest red wines. It is usually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. This complex, elegant, and full-bodied vintage is not made every year; it is only produced when the grapes have special features and the harvest has a low yield. It has a bright, ruby red colour, and an an aroma profile of mature fruits and jams, chocolate, toasty wood, spices, and even tobacco.
The Henry Gran Guardia features firm, mature tannins on the palate, with a long finish and a lingering aftertaste.
Argentina may have gotten its name from ‘silver’, but the country has definitely struck gold with their Malbec wines.