Malbec: what you should know about Argentina’s main grape variety
It's impossible to find a grape that everyone would like, but if I had to choose, it would definitely be Malbec. Fruity, full-bodied, and with soft tannins, it is impossible to resist the charm of this variety. I invite you to fill a glass with the exquisite Iluminado Paraje Altamira from Vinos de La Luz and learn more about this delicious grape.
History of the malbec grape revival
Malbec, a 2,000-year-old variety, is a grape with a history. Malbec originated in Cahors, France, where it was first discovered by Roman soldiers passing through the region. Over time, the wine became a favorite of such famous personalities as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and later Francis I, who called Malbec "Les Plantes du Roi" (royal plants). The French king ordered the planting of vines all over the country, from Fontainebleau to Burgundy.
After receiving such high-profile royal approval, Malbec moved to the Bordeaux region, where it has since been used to soften the sharper tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon. Malbec quickly became a common grape variety, one of the top five Bordeaux wine varieties. However, due to the poor resistance of the grape to weather conditions and pests, it was never considered the best French variety.
When phylloxera decimated vineyards across Europe in the late 19th century, French growers were forced to start over, and many of them, especially Bordeaux winemakers, decided to replace Malbec - a late-ripening grape that does not always respond well to the cold and humid climate of the region - by choosing safer varieties such as Cabernet and Merlot.
Time has passed, and the wines made from other grape varieties have become world-famous, unlike Malbec. Instead, he found a new home in Mendoza, Argentina, where he was first planted in 1868.
The grapes found their ideal place among the mountain landscapes of Argentina; the experiment was crowned with more success than the winemakers could have imagined. In regions like San Juan, Salta, and especially Mendoza - where the heart of Argentina's wine industry beats - Malbec didn't just survive - it thrived, and by 1962, nearly 60,000 grapevines had been planted across the country.
In 2020, the crop of Malbec in Mendoza accounted for 85% of all Malbec harvested in the country and although the roots of the grapes (literally) are in France, it was Argentina that really brought this magnificent variety to the world stage.
The second birthplace of the malbec variety is the vineyards at the foot of the andes
In the Mendoza region, the vineyards are located high above sea level, with an average altitude of about a thousand meters. As you climb the mountains, the average temperature decreases, and the range of day and night temperatures increases, which affects the quality of the berries and offers a more exciting range of richness of texture and flavor.
There is a lot to learn here because you can't help but wonder how much you need to love your business, how much passion and perseverance you need to invest in the development of the now legendary variety in order to take away the palm from the French. After all, France is the historical birthplace of Malbec.
The Argentines themselves can hardly believe their luck and say that over the past 20 years, thanks to the flagship variety, they have managed to do more for world fame than in the entire almost 500-year history of viticulture.
Tasting notes and foodparing
The main notes in the glass of Argentine Malbec are blackberries, plums, blueberries, and black cherries. Refined flavors include milk chocolate, violet flowers, leather, and, depending on the degree of aging in oak, a sweet tobacco aftertaste. The wine is perfectly balanced, has moderate acidity and pleasant tannins.
Malbec goes well with beef, duck, chicken leg, lamb, and pork shoulder. Among the spices, choose rich ones, such as thyme, rosemary, smoked paprika, coriander, juniper berries, cloves, vanilla, garlic, shallots.
Also, Malbec wine is perfect for aged cheeses made from cow's and goat's milk, mushrooms, fried vegetables, sweet peppers, lentils, black beans, and wild rice.