Why Argentina’s Malbec Is a Red-Hot Pour

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Malbec is leading the charge of red-hot Argentinian wine. To that we say salud!

Malbec is Argentina’s hero grape, flying the flag for the country’s wines in the same way that tempranillo does for Spain and shiraz does for Australia. Malbec’s home is France, where it is a minor blending variety in Bordeaux but stands proudly alone in the nearby Cahors appellation.

Argentina has been producing wines since its Spanish conquerors brought vines to South America in the middle of the 16th century. But it wasn’t until 1853 that malbec found its way from France to Argentina, about 20 years after its arrival in Australia. More than a century later, in the 1980s, malbec emerged as the country’s flag-bearer when Argentinian winegrowers moved from rustic, high-quantity wines to international-sales-focused, high-quality mode.

Malbec parallels shiraz with its diversity, ranging from a robust, easy-drinking red through to a sophisticated icon that’s perfect for cellaring. It smells of ripe plums and mulberries and its flavours are like a brimful basket of black fruits: black cherries, blackberries and blackcurrants. However, bold, earthy tannins add real grunt to the finish, which makes it best suited to red meat. The Argentinians produce some of the best beef in the world so this is truly a match made in heaven.

Altitude is the key to Argentina’s wine quality, along with its dry continental climate. The three winegrowing areas are on the eastern side of the Andes, the grapes sustained by pure, melted snow. The lowest vines are on the Patagonian plains, with southerly latitude making up for modest elevation. Patagonian malbec is quite subtle yet concentrated, with good depth and length. Patagonia’s Río Negro region is also famed for pinot noir.

In the country’s central west, the Luján de Cuyo area produces more than 80 per cent of Argentina’s wine from a mix of European varieties. Again, malbec is the star, with plantings above 1000 metres in Mendoza delivering reds of great density and intensity. 

In the Argentine Northwest region, vines soar even higher to 3000 metres at Salta. It’s the home of torrontés, a native white variety with floral musk and lychee aromas, generous mouth-filling flavours and a gentle acidity.

Winemaking in Argentina is supported by an abundance of history, resources and expertise, all carefully aimed at a burgeoning international market. Malbec is the country’s spearhead, backed by compelling cabernets, polished pinots and homegrown torrontés. Try one soon.  

2014 Bodega Noemia J. Alberto Malbec
Patagonia, $104

This is a serious and sophisticated malbec of structure and finesse. Plums and loganberries mingle with licorice and warm earth, creating a powerful and persistent wine with great ageing potential. Pair it with roast beef and all the trimmings.

2015 El Porvenir Laborum Single Vineyard Torrontés
Salta, $43 

The vineyard is 1650 metres above sea level and has 55-year-old vines. Musk and lemon-pith flavours define this white that has a rich texture and a gentle acid-led finale. Try it with crisp empanadas.

2014 Achaval Ferrer Malbec
Mendoza, $64

This benchmark malbec, from a top-flight producer, has abundant aromas of ripe plums and mulberries, lifted by sweet spices. It’s rich, round and fleshy with mouth-coating tannins that plead for a mixed grill.

2014 Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir
Patagonia, $56 

Full of bright-red cherry and boysenberry perfumes, with a hint of dried herbs, this compact drop is completed with underlying savoury flavours. It will cut through duck confit very nicely.

Shop these wines at Qantas epiQure

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