This week: a punchy, smokey, fruity grape with one foot in the Old World and a bright future in the New. Once an underdog, now nearly ubiquitous (21 MILLION cases are produced globally), Malbec might seem straightforwardly fruity but there’s much more to it that that.*
On with the facts!
Malbec? I know this one. Argentina, right?
Absolutely. But the Malbec story doesn’t begin in South America. Malbec was origninally planted in France, and it’s still grown there, especially in Cahors in south west France, where it’s known as Auxerrois or Côt Noir.
So how come Argentina was the first word on my mind?
Well, Malbec needs a lot of sun and is susceptible to quite a few diseases, which means it can be a tricky grape to grow in a European climate. In Argentina (where they have plenty of sun) it grows much better. Although it’s been grown in Argentina for more than a century it’s really only in the last few decades that the Malbec we know and love has come forward (it was mostly used for cheap plonk before that).
So Argentinian Malbec is the best?
Depends how you like it. The South American sun leaves the grapes bursting with big dark fruit flavours with smokey, chocolaty notes. Cooler climes produce grapes with more acidity and tarter fruit flavours, backed up by pepper and spice. This versatility is part of what makes Malbec so popular.
What if I like both of those styles?
Then Malbec still has you covered. The grape loves high elevations (again, plenty of those in Argentina), and the huge changes in temperature that happen on hot days in high climes provides great acidity on top of big fruit flavours. Because the popularity of Malbec is a comparatively recent development, we’re still discovering new ways to change and advance its flavours.
Exciting stuff. Time for a glass?
Well, we’re a wine company, so we’re unlikely to say no to that. If you’re looking for an occasion to celebrate Malbec, this coming Tuesday 17 April is World Malbec Day (we know, you just missed it – shout out to the Wine Facts Wednesdays email crew who got all this info a few weeks back. Sometimes it pays to be opted in!). It marks the day when Domingo Faustino Sarmiento of Argentina sent a French expert in his employ back to France to choose grape varieties that could transform Argentina’s wine industry. One of those grapes was Malbec, and though it took a while, we’re sure Domingo Faustino Sarmiento would be satisfied with the results.
If you’d like to learn more about Malbec and try some of the incredible examples we’ve got on hand, pop in then – or any other day of the year – and talk to anyone in a purple apron.