Argentina’s Great Malbecs with Tim Atkin

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Wines tasted: Muñoz de Toro Wines, Valle Perdido Malbec Reserva, Neuquén 2006; Bodega Colomé, Estate Malbec, Salta 2007; Finca Las Moras, Black Label Malbec, San Juan 2006; Doña Paula, Selección de Bodega Malbec, Mendoza 2006; Domaine Vistalba, Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec, Mendoza 2007; Achaval Ferrer, Finca Altamira, Mendoza 2006; Bodega Norton, Privada, Mendoza 2006; Bodega Catena Zapata, Argentino Malbec, Mendoza 2005; Trapiche, Viña Villafane Single Vineyard Malbec, Mendoza 2006.

This was no session for the fainthearted. As Tim Atkin MW, leading the masterclass, warned: ‘These are not wines for wimps. If you don’t like reds with lots of body, guts, flavour and – dare I say it – alcohol, then Argentinian reds are probably not for you.’

High-alcohol wines were indisputably the order of the day, but the nine Malbecs in the line-up also displayed balance, freshness and complexity – and a strong stamp of their geographic origin. Malbec plantings in Argentina have doubled since 1990 (accounting for 22,000ha of a total 202,000ha planted), and the grape has become its red calling card thanks to the deep colour, sweet fruit and approachable tannins that Malbec displays in this part of the world.

More and more producers are making 100% varietal Malbecs, in a wealth of styles impacted by region, vine age, yield and winemaking style. Atkin talked guests through wines spanning all price points, including cult wine Finca Altamira from Achaval Ferrer and Catena Zapata’s top Malbec, Argentino, a lush and yet structured wine redolent with dark black fruits. Utterly delicious. The other stunner was the Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva from Domaine Vistalba. Made in star Malbec region Lujan de Cuyo from 60-year-old vines, this had a fragrant violet perfume, floral red and black fruits, concentrated and yet balanced.

The modern Argentinian wine industry is in its infancy, said Atkin. If they are already achieving these heights with their wines, then the future looks exciting.