Argentina is the main producer of malbec worldwide. Of french origin, the variety was introduced in our country in 1853. If Mendoza is the most important wine region, from Salta to Río Negro, each area contributes its particularity.
A flagship variety of Argentina, Malbec stands out for its intense dark red color and the aromas reminiscent of plums, blackberries, strawberries and raisins. The sommelier Juan Giacalone highlights his “very good concentration, balance and harmony”. In the mouth, its warmth and softness are complemented by the sweetness of the tannins.
Although Argentina is the country with the largest Malbec area in the world, the origin of the variety goes back to the southwest of France, where it is called “Côt”. Due to their color and dark nuances, the wines were known as “the black wines of Cahors”, alluding to the region.
The Malbec was consolidated in the Middle Ages and strengthened in modernity. The conquest of the English market was key to its recognition worldwide. In 1863 the plague of phylloxera wreaked havoc in French viticulture and caused great problems for the wine industry.
Ten years before, in 1853, the variety had arrived in our country from the hand of the agronomist Michel Pouget, who had been hired by the National Government to head the Quinta Agronómica de Mendoza. The project, promoted by the governor of the province, Pedro Pascual Segura, sought to improve the national wine industry through the creation of a Quinta Normal and a School of Agriculture. The proposal had been submitted to the provincial Legislature on April 17, 1853 and approved on September 6 of that year by the House of Representatives.
At the end of the 19th century, Argentine winemaking developed exponentially. Soon, wines that far surpassed the French began to be produced. The variety was adapted with great ease to the soil and the climate of the country, where it found the “ideal characteristics to develop fully,” says Giacalone. Thanks to its adaptability, today it is possible to “find Malbec of excellent quality in different price ranges”, says the sommelier.
At present, Argentina is the main producer of Malbec in the world, with almost 40 thousand hectares planted. Followed by France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand and the United States.
“The area cultivated in the country, with this variety, reached 10,000 hectares in 1990, to 16,350 hectares in 2000 and in the 2015 growing season to 39,486 hectares, which represents 17.57 percent of the total vineyard area of the country “, details a disclosure of the National Institute of Viticulture (NIV).
The main viticultural region is Mendoza, where “86 percent of the Malbec crops are concentrated, with 34,095, 40 hectares. Next are San Juan with 2,087.20 hectares, Salta with 1,130.31 hectares, Patagonia (Neuquén and Río Negro) with 994.31 hectares and La Rioja with 710.50 hectares “, according to data from “Wines of Argentina”, the entity that promotes the “Argentine Wine” brand since 1993. From the northwest to Patagonia, each region brings its uniqueness and charm.
When talking about the future of the variety, Giacalone says: “What comes after Malbec is to continue experimenting with Malbec.”
Malbec goes well with red and grilled meats, hard cheeses and pasta with tomato sauce.
-Malbec young without aging in wood: it is recommended to consume them quickly. Also, those who were raised in wood for a few months can be kept for two to three years.
-Great Malbec: can be kept up to a decade.
World Malbec Day
Since 2011, every April 17 “Wines of Argentina” celebrates World Malbec Day, in commemoration of the date that was the “starting point for the development of this variety, the emblem of our country worldwide”.
Text by Gabriela Naso.. Photo: National Institute of Viticulture.