Wine Stories: Malbec – A Superstar Grape
If there was a popularity contest for grapes, Malbec would be number one.
This superstar grape has an old soul and young, exciting energy. Malbec is so beloved it has its very own day of celebration: April 17th – known as Malbec World Day and who doesn’t want to know and love a superstar?
The heart of Argentina, on this the day Malbec lovers around the world pop bottles to salute this super-cool grape and revel in its joy and taste. But what exactly is Malbec? Many assume that Malbec is a grape that comes from Argentina in South America, which much of it does. But from where did the Malbec grape originate? Malbec is actually one of the original grapes used in Bordeaux’s original red wine blend. This is where Malbec gains its historic roots. The grape is also called Auxerrois or Côt Noir in Cahors, France and can also be called Pressac internationally. Boasting lots of red and dark fruit on both the nose and palate with smooth, soft tannins, Malbec is a very approachable wine.
There are good reasons why this superstar grape is on the rise. There’s plenty of affordable bottles to try, the name is easy to remember and bottles can range from fresh and fun to dark and delicious.
Unfortunately, a 1956 frost killed off 75% of the French Malbec crop. Since then, planting of Argentina is slowing in France, but the grape is surging in Argentina and has become a national or signature variety.
First introduced to Argentina in the mid-19th century, Malbec is the most widely planted red grape variety in the country today. If you’re interested in the differences between French and Argentinian Malbec, the French style is more rustic with darker fruits, and Malbec from Argentina tends to be more red fruit forward and approachable for the new world wine drinkers.
Keep in mind that, like most wine information, this is a generalized assessment and there are exceptions to every rule.
The Malbec grape is thin-skinned and needs more sun and heat than its brother grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Some of Argentina’s most highly rated and complex Malbec wines are grown in Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions of Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. Located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, the elevation varies from 800 metres and 1,500 metres (2,800 to 5,000 feet). Grapes that are grown at high altitudes tend to thrive in cooler climates, which means a longer growing season and vines that struggle for water which gives the grapes a more complex flavour. These wines are typically aged in oak barrels longer than other Malbecs, making them fuller-bodied and giving them the ability to age.
Don’t forget to mark April 17th – Malbec World Day – on your calendar so you can pay your personal respects to Malbec – the superstar grape of Argentina.