Column: Wine April 11, 2013

Flagship Wines 28.03.13

Flagship Wines 28.03.13 - Credit: Archant

ON April 17 it is the third celebration of World Malbec Day, an event established to celebrate the increasing success of this grape in producing quality wines in Argentina.

Despite the current success of this grape in Argentina it is important that the roots of this vine are in France, especially in the dark wines of Cahors in the South West where there is a long established history of Malbec-based wines.

The wines of this region were known as the ‘black’ wines as the grapes had very dark skins and high levels of tannin which ‘fixed’ the colour in the wine during fermentation and ageing.

Traditionally the wines were dark and tough when young and dark and almost as hard after ageing in barrel or bottle.

However, this style is less appealing to today’s wine drinkers and to compete with the ripe fruity notes of wines from the southern hemisphere many winemakers in Cahors are making Malbec-based wines such as Ch Pineraie that have a ripe, fruity balance with the tannin structure and ones teeth, tongue and lips are less stained after drinking it!

There are also some lovely Malbec-based wines produced in the South of France such as the Les Volets Malbec in the Vallée de l’Aude which is a true French classic with vibrant garnet hues.

The taste profile is equally intriguing and enticing – complex without being clumsy – and shows the typical juicy fruit Malbec notes with a hint of chocolate as it ages.

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Chilean producers, Viu Manent, have also mastered the Malbec grape and offer delicious single vineyard wines that compare well with wines of similar ilk from Argentina.

It had also been used historically in Bordeaux blends in the Medoc as a minority percentage of the melange of grape varieties grown and used to produce these wines.

Some of the great surprises have been the success of Malbec in New Zealand. It has been used in blends such as those from Esk Valley Winery and, Squawking Magpie in Hawkes Bay for many years but Will at Fromm Winery in Marlborough is showing that it can be equally successful when vinified separately too.

To quote the winemaker: “It is concentrated, pure and expressive with huge fruit tannins giving you the impression of a complete wine with a vibrant harmony.”

Back to Argentina, winemaking is improving and developing in leaps and bounds as a result of the worldwide interest in Malbec wines from this country.

At one extreme it produces thousands of litres of cheap uninteresting wine that is exported in bulk to Russia and China but one step up from that are the easy-drinking juicy fruit wines circa £7 (increased as a result of the recent budget increase in excise duty) such as Trivento Tribu Malbec that offer great value and a lovely drink that is great with pizza or spicy sausage casserole.

At every price point on from the entry level the Malbec wines offer greater complexity and style and it is worthwhile remembering that often when buying wine you do get what you pay for.

Try the Nieto Senetiner Malbec and Nieto Senetiner Don Nicanor – £2 separates their retail price but you do get an awful lot more wine quality in terms depth of flavour and lingering fruit from the latter more expensive wine.

Moving on from these to the Decero Malbec which has complexity added to the lovely rich ripe fruit notes from ageing in French oak it is easy to see the added value in the delicious taste.

Trapiche is one of the most highly praised sources of Malbec and is highly rated for its single vineyard Malbec-based wines at a retail price of £33 and which have stunning complex aromas and tastes of ripe, spicy berry fruit interlaced with lingering vanilla oak overtones.

Each year it is easy to spot how Malbec keeps on offering more and more to entice us to drink its wines from around the world and they rarely disappoint.