Lights, camera, Malbec!

Argentinian vineyards

Argentinian vineyards - Credit: Archant

It’s that time of year again and always worthy of a mention - Friday April 17 is the fifth celebration of the Malbec grape on its nominated festival World Malbec Day established to celebrate the increasing success of this grape in producing quality wines in Argentina. In the five years since its inception this celebration has gained momentum and tastings and parties are widely held around the world especially those producing this juicy fruit grape.

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 a balanced tannins.

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.

It is also used in Bordeaux blends in the Medoc though now 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.

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 Squawking Magpie have grown it for years for their blends with Merlot and Cabernet. Also, Will at the Fromm Winery in Marlborough, South Island has had great success with a wine made solely from this grape. To quote him: “It is concentrated, pure and expressive with huge fruit tannins giving you the impression of a complete wine with a vibrant harmony.”

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

If you think you know Argentinain Malbec go back and try some of the more mature vintages that are sometinmes available and some of the new producers appearing on shelves. Don’t forget its brothers in Europe and New Zealand too – they offer an extension of the taste to enjoy!