Make mine Malbec!
- Credit: Flagship Wines
World Malbec Day on April 17 is usually the perfect time to check out a grape variety enjoyed by many wine consumers.
However, some Argentinian producers are questioning whether it is right to continue to focus on this variety almost to the exclusion of others. I think that the lovely wines Malbec makes are worthy of celebration whilst trying Argentinian wines made from Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon etc.
Argentina’s wine makers can be justly 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 producing finer wines that have aging potential with many layers of flavour.
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 varieties permitted in the standard Bordeaux blend in the Medoc and well known for the 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 now make wines that are full of ripe fruit balanced with tannin.
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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 balance the 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 with 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. 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.
The success of New Zealand Malbec is relatively recent 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 in this area.
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.
Argentinian 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 Marcel Pelleriti, Tapiz 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. The diverse range of contemporary quality wines with stylish flavours and that evolve over time and the blending with other grapes including Tempranillo mean that it is still worth checking out.