Argentina is changing, says Sarah Jane Evans MW, whose recent trip there opened her eyes to the wider potential of these wines. See five of the top Malbec and Malbec blends she tried.
Picture the cliché of an Argentinia Malbec. Full of black and red plum fruit, usually with a cooked or syrupy edge. Alcohol starting at 14% and edging up to 16% (I’ve tasted 16.5% – you cannot finish the glass, let alone the bottle). These wines were part of a commercial boom.
The change occuring is apparent in Mendoza, the vineyard in the desert. Producers are investing in the Uco Valley to the west, beyond Luján de Cuyo, chasing higher altitudes, wider diurnal temperature ranges and different soils (above all, limestone). Gualtallary, Altamira and La Consulta are the among the small sub-zones that will be internationally famous. Careful work on row orientation and viticulture is bringing in fresher fruit. In the winery, there’s a welcome movement to reduce oak and replace new barrels with old oak and large foudres. Significantly, the new generation is investing in concrete. The symbol must be the new Zuccardi winery, rising from the rocky landscape, which Sebastian Zuccardi has filled with concrete eggs and amphorae.
These wines were part of Sarah Jane Evans MW’s Expert’s Choice in the October issue of Decanter. To get Expert’s Choice every month, subscribe to Decanter here.
Sarah Jane Evans MW’s Argentina Malbec wines to try:
If there’s any bad news – setting aside the regular political and economic issues – it’s that 2015 is seen as the worst vintage since 1998. The good news is that ‘at least we knew what to do, which we didn’t back then’.