Malbec – Argentina’s Gem

Let us tell you about one of our favourite value for money red wines....Malbec.

While the historic birthplace of Malbec is Southwest France, it is in Argentina where the grape receives most of its fame.

Malbec is originally from France and before the severe winter of 1956, it was the most commonly planted vine throughout south-west France, including Bordeaux.

Because of its initial popularity, Malbec was (and still is) one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine.

After the severe winter of 1956 killed many of the vines, Malbec was largely passed over by the French for more glamorous alternatives, which were replanted in its place.

Instead, it found a new home in Mendoza, Argentina where a nostalgic French botanist planted it by order of the mayor in 1868.

Today, Argentina produces over 75% of all of the world's Malbec.

In effect it was Argentina, the fifth largest producer of wine in the world, which “saved” Malbec.

And when it comes to Malbec, Mendoza is the world’s Malbec wine capital. The Mendoza region is a huge wine growing area, slightly less than half of the entire planted acreage in the United States and more than the acreage of New Zealand and Australia combined. The Mendoza province lies on the western edge of Argentina, across the Andes Mountains from Chile. The strip of vineyard land that runs along the base of the Andes lies between 800m and 1200m above sea level, and it is this altitude that moderates the hot, dry climate of the region. Warm, sunny days are followed by nights made much colder by westerly winds from the Andes.

In lower elevations, Malbec grapes struggle to produce the acidity they need to create great tasting and long lasting wine. High up in the Mendoza region of Argentina, with its hot days and cold nights providing the ideal conditions, we find the ideal conditions to create great tasting and long lasting Malbec.

The grape clusters of Argentine Malbec are different from its French relatives; having smaller berries in tighter, smaller clusters. The classic Mendoza Malbec is a deep purple-red that is nearly opaque, with a bright magenta rim, with juicy, elegant fruit, soft tannins, velvety texture and a balanced structure.

Because of Malbec’s bold flavors and richness, most Argentine Malbec has only about 6 months of oak aging. If possible look for 12 months of aging or more to obtain the classic ‘blueberry’ smell. Some of the more expensive Malbec wines are aged in oak for 18-20 months but these are still excellent value for a reserve grade red wine.

One of the great Mendoza success stories is Trapiche, which was founded when Tiburcio Benegas bought property that contained a small vineyard in Mendoza in 1883. Benegas named his property El Trapiche, and grew it to an astonishing 6,653 hectares. It now exports to over 40 countries.

Trapiche produces many of its varietals under its brand name, largely coming from selected vineyards in the high area of the Mendoza River and in the east region of Mendoza.

Trapiche sells a yearly set of single-vineyard Malbecs, created by their winemaker, Daniel Pi as a way to show an appreciation for smaller, individual Mendoza vineyards, some of which were cited as the best wines that Trapiche has ever produced. As part of the Trapiche Single Vineyard Malbec series, Pi selects three of the best Malbec grape growers in Mendoza each year.

Trapiche was named Impact Magazine's 2007, 2008 and 2009 "Hot Brand.” It was named the "Argentinian wine producer of the year" in 2004 and 2008 by the International Wine and Spirit Competition. Trapiche wines are also frequently named to Wine and Spirits Magazine's Value Brands of the Year list.

Interestingly, Australia is also hopping on the Malbec bandwagon and Grapes and Lager have a couple of nice Australian Malbecs from the likes of Marq Wines and Zontes Footstep.




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