Living under lockdown: Enjoy World Malbec Day 2020!

Some selections of Malbec. Picture: Flagship Wines

Some selections of Malbec. Picture: Flagship Wines - Credit: Archant

It’s that time of year again – World Malbec Day - April 17 it is the celebration of the Malbec grape established to celebrate its increasing success in producing quality wines in Argentina.

Argentina’s wine makers are proud of their wine, especially Malbec ,and it has gained a reputation for the diversity of styles, quality and instantly recognisable juicy fruit notes that respond well to careful oak-aging.

Despite the current success of this grape in Argentina the roots of this vine are in France where there is a long-established history of Malbec-based wines. It is one of the six permitted grape varieties permitted in the standard Bordeaux blend in the Medoc and especially well known for the dark wines of Cahors in the South West.

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 aging. Traditionally the wines were dark and tough however, this style is not often made now as it needs to compete with the ripe fruity notes of wines from the southern hemisphere Malbec based wines. Producers such as Ch Pineraie in Cahors have thus responded to taste changes in the market and make a ripe fruity balance with balanced tannins.

In Bordeaux blends in the Medoc it only forms a small percentage of the blend used for these wines as the proportion of Merlot and Cabernet Franc has increased and blended with the predominant Cabernet Sauvignon but does open up the often tight tannins with its juicy fruit.

There are also some lovely Malbec based wines produced in the South of France such as the Les Volets Malbec in the Vallee de l’Aude which is a true French classic that is complex and shows the typical juicy fruit Malbec notes with a hint of chocolate as it ages.

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. Viu Manent San Carlos Malbec from Colchagua Valley in Chile is an intensely flavoured elegant wine with ripe fruit, spices, rounded tannins and a long velvety note on the palate.

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The success of Malbec in New Zealand is relatively recent phenomenon especially in the Hawkes Bay region where wineries such as Esk Valley Winery and the Left Field label have grown it for years for their blends with Merlot and Cabernet in vineyards on North Island in Hawkes Bay and Gisborne. At Esk Valley Gordon Russell’s Malbec blends with Merlot grapes produce a fragrant, rich and complex red, with a full complex palate of smooth, plump ripe fruit and smoky spices. Left Field Malbec has very intense characters of blackberry and liquorice together with the deep mass of dark chocolate with a smooth, fine velvety soft palate.

Argetinian Malbecs offer an appealing lighter fruity style at entry point prices gaining complexity with quality and judicious oak aging that is reflected in the price. Producers such as Fournier, Tapiz, Decero and Nieto Senetiner amongst others have gained highly praised reputations for their Malbecs.

Argentina’s ‘flagship’ grape variety that is full of rich ripe blackcurrant, damson and berry fruits is traditionally one of the ‘go to’ pairings with steak. However, the contemporary wines with flavours that evolve over time based on careful oak aging and blending with other grapes including Tempranillo mean that the diversity of styles is worth checking out.