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Nobody can deny that Malbec is synonymous with Argentina. However, there are other elements that help to form a partnership between a country and a grape.
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In the late nineteenth century, a plague broke out in the vineyards of Europe. Phylloxera, a terrible aphid that feeds on vine roots. It destroyed a large part of the genetic lines. In short, it was a major catastrophe.
However, some of these varieties flourished outside Europe. Argentine Malbec is one of them. It recovered and multiplied in this corner of the world, and established itself as the favourite it is today.
Malbec from regional vine populations
Casarena DNA Malbec, is a comparison between the historic vines and the current ones. They argue that there is a sort of genetic platform to work on regarding the diversity of Malbec. Wineries such as Catena and Chandon have spent years choosing specific populations. All that hard work which has taken decades, is part of the inalienable patrimony of Argentina and Malbec.
The worldwide success of Malbec is thanks to it finding a cosmopolitan style. Throughout the twentieth century Argentina developed styles of light Malbec with simple flavours with docile tannins and fruit flavours.
So now, when the wine world is seeking a regional as opposed to a global identity, Malbec is once again the key. There are the Malbec’s from Norton, Weinert or Cruz de Piedra which were made in the 1970s, witnesses of another era which inspire current styles. An inspiration which is more a search for elegance and flavour than high impact.
Malbec from north to south
From Mendoza, Malbec has radiated out to the other wine producing provinces. From Salta to Patagonia it is found at various altitudes and in very different types of soil. The same pattern is repeated within Mendoza in terroirs like Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. Malbec is the key to understanding how to get the best character from the wine in each of the regions of Argentina, which in turn ensures diversity.
The plasticity that Malbec offers in each region is also important when developing other styles. Two noteworthy ones are: rosé and sparkling. In the former, the Malbec from cold, high altitude areas gives fresh and aromatic wines, and with the latter the same regions provide sufficient tension. Thus, in recent years, along with Pinot Noir, Malbec has become an important part of the sparkling rosé market.
Malbec ascends on a scale of prestige, while at the same time rising up the slopes of the Cordillera. As a result, there are now some fresher examples which complete the picture of the varietal. While it was made famous in the world for its broad, smooth palate, today it is possible to find tighter Malbec’s, with elevated freshness and rounded tannins.
So, today Malbec is a vast field of exploration in Argentina, both for the knowledgeable consumer and the novice. And the truth is, that when we look at what is on offer, we see one of the richest panoramas around.
Written by Joaquín Hidalgo for Wines of Argentina