Cheers! It’s Malbec World Day!
According to Wikipedia, Malbec World Day is celebrated on April 17 because that is the day in 1853 when “president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento officially made it his mission to transform Argentina’s wine industry” by inviting French soil expert Michel Aimé Pouget to adapt French varietals, including Malbec, to Argentina.
The whole month of April is Malbec month, so if you missed giving a toast to Malbec tonight, you have about two more weeks! Of course, the Wines of Argentina folk hope it will be a Malbec from Argentina but as the largest production of this wine is from Argentina, chances are pretty good that’s where the wine in your glass will be coming from!
Recently, I traveled to LA to the official residence of the Argentine Consulate to taste wines that are seeking importers or distributers in the US. There I learned more about the wines of Argentina, including of course, Malbec.
A few facts about Malbec and Argentina from Marcelo Pelleriti’s presentation:
- Malbec is the most planted varietal in Argentina
- Argentina is the main producer in the world of Malbec
- Malbec was first brought to Argentina in 1853
- The oldest Malbec vines in Argentina were planted in 1861
- Malbec and Malbec blends account for almost half of the entire Argentinean wine category in the U.S.
- Malbec is grown in three regions in Argentina, in various elevations, and with great variability.
For example, Marcelo Pelleriti says that:
- Higher elevation Malbec is more floral with structured tannins
- Medium elevation Malbec is rounder with more peppery notes
- Lower elevation Malbec is more simple, straightforward, and easy to drink today
While the wines of Mendoza area located in the central part of the country are the most well-known, Malbec is also made in the North as well as in the region know as Patagonia in the south.
Marcelo Pelleriti’s vines are located in the Uco Valley in the Mendoza region. The first and so far the only winemaker to attain a 100 point score from Robert Parker, Marcelo Pelleriti studied in France and has made over 30 vintages in France and in Argentina. He makes wines from several varietals as well as a rose, blends and of course Malbec. I tasted several wines and came away with an appreciation of his $20 Reserve Malbec.
Because all I’ve really heard about is wines from Mendoza, I sought out to taste wine from Patagonia, and found Humberto Canale where I talked at length with Ariel Menniti. Founded in 1909 by Humberto Canale who (possibly inspired by his name?) developed irrigation systems there.
Patagonia vines are subject to intense weather: hot sunny days with very cold nights with strong icy winds howling their way from the Antartica!
The $14 2015 Denario Malbec from General Roca, Rio Negro Patagonia is an exceptional value: 13.5% alcohol and with 15% of the wine aged in oak for six months.
Unfortunately, like I said, these wines are looking for importers and/or distributors, making it challenging to find in time for a Malbec Day toast!
What you can find nationwide in the US is:
2014 Amado Sur Malbec, Trivento, Mendoza SRP $15
A blend of 79% Malbec with 11% Bonarda and 10% Syrah, Trivento’s Amado Sur’s name means “Southern Love” because Malbec loves the growing conditions of the foothills of the Andes. Trivento refers to the three winds which are distinct to the region and which benefits the vines benefit: the icy polar wind from the south which in winter sinks sap deep into the vines, the Zonda which in spring rouses the sap with its warmth coming from the Andes to the West, and the Sudestada which cools the vines in the searing summer months.
While Argentinian wines have typically been single varietal, Trivento’s successful experiments with blends has led the way for others to do so as well. At the “Seeking An Importer” event in LA, I tasted several blends that I think people would enjoy, many of them quite affordable like this one. And Bonarda, which is 11% of this blend, is going to be the next hot ticket reports Marcelo Pelleriti: where Malbec was in the 90s is where Bonarda is today– not that well known but with lots of potential, especially as it responds to the terroir of Argentina.
But the star of this show is clearly the Malbec which shines bright and clearly. A very pretty deep dense red with hints of violet, the nose is fragrant of red fruit: fresh cherries and strawberries with vanilla — almost like a fresh cherry or strawberry pie. Chocolate on the finish makes you reach for the glass for another round!
For some ideas on what to pair, consider chicken with mole sauce, traditional Argentinaian cuisine, or check out what we paired with these Malbec from Archaval-Ferrer!