Malbec is Argentina's flagship variety, and the country has the largest Malbec acreage in the world. This variety originally comes from South West France, where it is called Cot and features a hard, tannic style. Due to its intense color and dark hues, wines obtained from this variety were once called “the black wines of Cahors.” These wines consolidated their prestige in the Middle Ages and gained full recognition in modern times.
The conquest of the English market was a crucial step for the success of Cahors wines in England and around the world.
In 1852, Malbec was brought to Argentina by Michel A. Pouget, a French agronomist who was hired by the Argentine government.
When phylloxera destroyed French viticulture towards the end of the 19th century, the “Cot” fell into oblivion. However, a culture of appreciation of Malbec had already consolidated.
Malbec in particular adapts quickly to the varied terroirs offered by Argentina’s landscape and begins to produce wines better than in its original land.Argentina became the only country to have original Malbec vines of true French heritage.
"Good Argentine Malbec, and there is a great deal of it for Argentina is one of the world's most prolific wine producers, is deeply coloured, spicily rich with an exuberant juiciness and has as a trademark an almost velvety texture".
Malbec in Argentina
Argentina is currently the main producer of Malbec in the world, with 76,603 acres of vineyards planted across the country, followed by France (13,097 acres), Italy, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand and the USA.
Argentine producers have grown Malbec extensively in every wine region of the country. Today, opulent, vigorous Malbecs may be found all along the Andes mountain range, from Salta to Patagonia.
Mendoza is the main Malbec producer in the country, with 65,730 acres, representing 85% of all Malbec vineyards. San Juan ranks second with 6,700 acres, followed by Patagonia (Neuquén and Río Negro) with 2,230 acres, Salta with 1,730 acres and La Rioja with 1,235 acres.
Malbec wines have Controlled Denomination of Origin (DOC) in some Argentine regions, which helps to protect the name of the area and forces winemakers to maintain the high quality of wines.
Malbec Luján de Cuyo was the first Denomination of Origin (DOC) of the Americas. Malbec from Luján de Cuyo has an intense, dark cherry red color, which may look almost black. It shows mineral expressions, with black fruit and sweet spices standing out.
Malbecs from Tupungato, Tunuyán and San Carlos (in the Uco Valley) are more elegant and display distinctive spicy and floral notes.
In Patagonia (Neuquén and Río Negro) the climate is slightly colder and altitudes are less extreme, which leads berries to retain acidity, yielding wines with notes of ripe black fruits in combination with a marked mineral tone.
The north (Salta and Catamarca), instead, is one with the sun and high altitude. Malbec from this region expresses a unique personality: aromas of very ripe red and black fruits, black pepper and paprika, with a very solid structure of solid, sweet tannins.
Malbec expresses itself very well in regions with broad temperature ranges and calcareous, clayey or sandy soils as those found at the foot of the Andes. These geographic and climatic features make Argentine Malbec stand out particularly for the quality of its tannins: sweet, silky and mouth-filling.
"Malbec is now a seriously thrilling rising star in the red wine firmament".
What to Look for in Malbec
Malbec’s most significant characteristic is its intense dark color. Its aromas evoke cherries, strawberries or plums; in some cases it is reminiscent of cooked fruit (e.g. marmalade), depending on when the grapes were harvested. In the mouth Malbec is warm, soft, and sweet, with non-aggressive tannins. When it is aged in oak, it develops coffee, vanilla and chocolate aromas.
When to Uncork a Bottle of Malbec
In general, Malbec is a variety that characteristically offers a burst of fruit flavors. This feature may confer great complexity to wines aged in new oak. Young unoaked Malbecs should be consumed quickly; those aged for a few months in oak may be kept for 2 to 3 years; “big” Malbecs can age well in the bottle for a decade.
Pairings with Malbec
Malbec pairs well with red meats, grilled meats, hard cheeses and pasta with tomato sauce.
"When consumers think of malbec, only one country comes to mind: Argentina".
Malbec Has Its Own World Day
On April 17 1853, with the support of Mendoza’s Governor Pedro Pascual Segura, a bill for the foundation of a Quinta Normal and a School of Agriculture was submitted to the Provincial Legislature. The House of Representatives enacted this bill as law on September 6 of the same year.
The efforts made by Pouget and Sarmiento at the Quinta Normal of Mendoza played a key role in that process. April 17 was chosen by Wines of Argentina for the celebration of Malbec World Day, not only because the creation of the Quinta Normal represented the transformation of Argentine winemaking, but because it amounted to the starting point for the development of this variety, the flagship of the Argentine wine industry worldwide.
"When consumers think of Malbec, only one country comes to mind: Argentina".