The grape Malbec has a very large fan base around the world. It is loved by many and has a rich history – and a very exciting future. First introduced to Argentina in the mid-19th century, Malbec has since risen to prominence and is now the most widely planted red grape variety in the country today. A pre-phylloxera strain of Malbec was brought to Argentina from its native home of Bordeaux, France in 1853 and since then, it has created a Hollywood home in Argentina as a superstar grape variety and is celebrated each year on April 17th which is known as #MalbecWorldDay.
Originally used in the iconic red wine blends of Bordeaux, France, the majority of Malbec was first killed off by a terrible frost making it mostly extinct in the region. After the frost, a vine-eating louse called phylloxera destroyed the remaining Malbec vines, leaving a very small amount in all of France. Thankfully, it had already made its way to Argentina and had started to thrive. In the rest of the world, Malbec can also be called Auxerrois or Côt Noir and also goes by the name Pressac. Although not very popularly-planted around the globe, you can still find plantings in seven countries.
While overall planting of Malbec is slowing in France, the grape is surging in Argentina and has become their national signature grape variety, with more than 112,000 acres planted. 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.
Known as ‘mountain vines,’ grapes that grow at high altitudes tend to thrive. At higher elevations, the climate is cooler, there is a greater diurnal shift in temperature between day and night, and the solar radiation is intense. These conditions create stress for the vines and the end result are berries that are smaller and grapes that provide juice that is more complex in flavour. The majority of Argentina’s vineyards are planted in high altitude deserts in the rain shadow of the Andes mountain range – the longest continental mountain range in the world. The Andes extends through seven South American countries, and it goes without saying that Argentina has harnessed the mountain’s power and elegance in their winemaking.
But what does altitude have to do with great wine? Well, altitude helps to give wines a distinctive character by serving as a temperature regulator for grape growing. Under stress, grape vines adapt and produce more complex fruit. The solar radiation due to a thinner atmosphere helps to produce wines that have elegance and finesse and grapes grow thicker skins that contribute flavour, colour and texture to the wines. The significant ‘diurnal shift’ – when temperatures shift from high during the day, to cool at night – in these high altitude areas is how wines keep their acidity, which is the backbone of any excellent and premium wine.
There is nowhere in the word where high quality and premium Malbec is produced as it is in Argentina. If you love to discover great wines that put quality first, Argentina is your place to travel to. With a series of natural factors, combined with a deeply rooted popular wine culture, Argentine wines offer unique identity and quality. These wines are full of wonder, diversity of style and are polished on the finish.
Celebrate #MalbecWorldDay on April 17th with a glass of any of these fine bottles of Malbec, available at the LCBO and other fine wine retailers.
The below recommendations are bound to surprise and delight your palate.
Super Wine Girl Recommendations
- Bodega Norton Barrel Select Malbec
- Don David Reserve Malbec
- Argento Reserve Organic Fair-trade Malbec
- Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Organic Malbec/Corvina blend
- Don Nicanor Malbec
- Toso Estate Malbec
- Toso Limited Edition Malbec
- Susana Balbo Signature Malbec
- Trapiche Medalla Malbec
- Broquel Malbec
- PURE Malbec
- Trivento Reserve Malbec
- Terrazas de los Andes Malbec Reserva
- Domaine Bousquet Gran Malbec
- Zuccardi Q Malbec