What Is Malbec?
The Malbec grape, mostly grown in Argentina, produces full-bodied and acidic wines that run deep red/purple in colour. Known the world over for its flavour profile that usually boasts plump, dark fruit flavours and smoky finishes, Malbec is a fantastic alternative to its higher-priced cousins, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah wines.
The Origin of Malbec
Unbeknown to some, the actual birthplace of Malbec wine is in Southwestern France, not Argentina. However, your very first taste of Malbec could have been from a wine produced in Mendoza, Argentina. This is because Argentina is now home to nearly 70% of the Malbec vineyards in the world.
The location of the first Malbec, according to records, places it in the small Cahors region of France, way back in the 16th Century. Records show that the name ‘Malbec’ was introduced in the 1780s, with experts believing this to be because Monsieur Malbeck first planted the vines in Bordeaux.
Over the course of the next 100 years, Malbec struggled to grow in popularity amongst Bordeaux and its loyal English customers, the variety had slow growth until the mid-1880s where it was then introduced to Argentina, and famously planted in the Mendoza region. This immense geographical change was the fresh start Malbec needed to reinvent itself and earn its place on the world stage that it deserved. Soon after this introduction, Malbec became immensely popular and ended up being one of the most common varieties planted in Argentina.
The History of Malbec
Malbec was one of several wines introduced when Argentine winemakers, searching for a grape to improve the quality of their wines, sought the advice of French agronomist Michel Pouget. Michel brought over a variety of vines from France, which coincidentally included the Malbec.
The clone that Michel brought to Argentina since disappeared in France, but the grape found its perfect home in Argentina’s mountainous landscape. This desperate lunge in finding suitable grapes turned into a bigger success than any of the winemakers could have imagined. By 1962, it was recorded that there were nearly 60,000 Malbec vines planted in regions such as Salta, San Juan, and of course Argentina’s beating heart, Mendoza. Malbec thrived, and unbeknownst at the time this grape would change how Argentina produced wine forever.
At the start of this Argentina-Malbec love story, nobody was asking for Argentinian Malbec, purely because nobody had heard of it. But once word spread through the grapevine (pun intended), and with the expertise of foreign winemakers, Argentina was finally able to realise and extract the true value of this grape. Instead of following the crowd and producing their own versions of already established grapes such as Chardonnay and Cabernet, Argentina roared onto the scene with a far more original offering.
Since its introduction to the country, Argentinian Malbec has become a staple, and Argentina’s very own claim to fame in the world of wine. Their wines are now admired across the globe and thoroughly deserve their global recognition.
Why Malbec thrives in Argentina
Malbec can thrive in a wide variety of climates, evident when comparing the climatic and geographical differences between Argentina and France. Altitude plays an integral role in the success of Argentina’s wine quality, in synthesis with its dry continental climate. The three main areas for winegrowing are located on the eastern side of the Andes, where the grapes benefit from being sustained by pure melted snow.
Luján de Cuyo, situated in the country’s southwest, produces more than 80% of Argentina’s wine, of which Malbec is the star variety, with plantings above 1000 metres in Mendoza that produce reds of great density and intensity. The Andeluna 1300 Malbec 2020 is a fantastic example of this. With its grapes grown at over 1300 metres, this wine encapsulates the very best traits of a superb Malbec.
Salta, situated in the northwest region, vines soar even higher up to 3000 metres. This location is home to the Torrontés, a native white grape that produces wines boasting floral musk and lychee aromas with gentle acidity. The Tapiz Torrontes 2021 celebrates all that is achievable with this variety, and what a remarkably unique and powerful wine it is.
The lowest vines are on the Patagonian plains, but where they lack elevation, they certainly benefit from the southerly latitude.
Winemaking in Argentina is successful not only because of its superior geographical location, but also due to its abundance of history, expertise and resources at hand. If you were yet to find a wine that embodies all of this, look no further than the La Gran Revancha 2018
Malbec's influence on the world stage
Malbec is planted in over 112,823 acres of land in Argentina and if that’s not impressive enough, the country exported over 129 million litres of Malbec in 2020 alone. With over 75% of all Malbec grown in Argentina, it’s clear this French grape variety found its new home next to the Andes mountains.
According to Wines of Argentina, the United States is the biggest bottled wine market for Argentinian Malbec, closely followed by the United Kingdom with exports value totalling $124,218,880 and $50,212,298 respectively.
Argentina clearly takes the lead of Malbec production and quality, but there are various other countries that produce noteworthy and competitive Malbecs. Those countries, not surprisingly, consist of: France, United States, Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. And whilst Argentinian Malbec holds a special place in our heart, we also have to appreciate the beauty of Malbec from different parts of the globe, and we invite you to browse our Malbec offerings here!
Cahors Region, France - VisitFrenchWine