Every time that I think about Malbec, I cannot help conjuring the image of the expatriate son who left a disgruntled Europe to find a peaceful home in Argentina and came back to the mother country with flying colours.
This is the impression that I got after reading the paper Malbec World Day by Pablo Lacoste, written for Wines of Argentina. Like a saga, the history of Malbec is rich with colourfoul characters that include kings, noblesmen, scientists and colonial powers.
As you know the birthplace of Malbec is in Cahors of the french southwest. Also known as cot, the wines of Cahors were prestigious among the European ruling classes during the middle ages.
The immigration of Malbec in Argentina began when Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, governor of Mendoza, headhunted the French agronomist Miguel Pouget to export vine material from France to Argentina at the end of the XIX. Of the varieties that the french scientist brought were the very first Malbec vines to be planted in the country. Rapidly it grew in popularity by grape growers because of the way it conditioned to the terroir of Mendoza and its positive attributes: resistance to disease, dark colour and sweet tannins.
Central to the developent of the modern Malbec in Argentina was Nicolas Catena Zapata, a third generation winery owner who began an alternative study of Malbec and the Terroir of Mendoza, leading the way to high altitude grape growing in the Uco Valley.
Recently, I have been drinking a lot of Malbec during the past few weeks. There was the Wines of Argentina Cambalache event in Montreal and we had the visit of Sergio Case, the winemaker of Trapiche in Montreal.
No doubt, one of Argentina pioneer families of Malbec has been Trapiche. Their story started in a small vineyard that bears its name ” El Trapiche ” in Mendoza, Argenina premier winemaking region. In 2016, they were the leading Argentinian exporting winery. By 1889, they were already recognized internationally with their wine brands such as Fond de Cave and Broquel that still are vigent today. Trapicche wines come from selected vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina.
From their early origins, they were ahead of his time. A beautiful precedent in Argentina, they are recognized to be a pioneer brand in many aspects. These include the introduction of french varietals, elaboration of mono varietals wine and the introduction of french oak barrels from Nancy, France. They also were one of the first to use stainless steel tanks and the employment of international wine consultants.
This international approach is reflected in the background of Sergio Case, one of the senior winemakers of Trapiche. Mr. Case brings a solid international experience having worked in Bordeaux, Champagne, Chateauneuf du Pape, Tuscany and Napa Valley. Regularly, Sergio and his staff organize tasting of the best international wines against the Trapiche wines, to see how they measure. In our meeting, he told me that Trapiche wants to focus on wines that can compete in the international premium market.
Pure Malbec 2015. SAQ # 12823397. $16.60. Phillippe Dandurand Wines. The entry level of Trapiche has shown remarkable improvement and is verry competitive on an international event. A youthful nose of black fruits, leather with subtle nuances of licorice and smoke. It is very polished in the mouth with remarkable juicy tannins.
Medalla Malbec 2014 ( Private Importation, $20.95). Philippe Dandurand Wine. A graceful and elegant Malbec. On the nose, mint, graphite and gunpowder. Ripe blue and black fruit with a slight hint of barnyard nuances. Full body with muscular tannins and a great acidity. Racy and long in the mouth.
Imperfecto 2011 ( Private Importation, $60). Philippe Dandurand Wine. Definitely, a wine that can show a great showmanship that Malbec can achieve in Argentina. A powerful core of black fruits, laced with vanilla, licorice and spices. Dense, with a nice oak frame, almost chewy with juicy acidity and puckering tannins. Starting to open now but with will benefit from a decade in the cellar.
Wines of Argentina event highlights
Argentina is one of the largest countries in the world and is blessed with a dry and continental climate. They are the 7th largest world wine cosumer and the 5th world’s largest wine producer. They have a cultivated surface of 224,707.43 hectares with 4 winemaking wine regions that include the northern group, Cuyo, Mendoza and Patagonia. By 2016, there were 413 exporting wineries with 936$ million in total exports and 360$ million in liters. 65% of the production is consumed domestically and 35% is exported.
On this post, I will focus only on the Malbec bottles. In a future, I will explore the other varietals. Here are my best picks:
Like Trapiche, A visionary family in the Argentinian wine industry. One of the few companies to have a research and development team to keep abreast with the latest wine trends and to study their terroir.
Concreto 2015 ( Private Import, $44.50). Elixirs vins et spiriteux. A fresher style of Malbec. On the nose, rasperry with violet confit petals. Also some lead pencil and graphite. Full body, bright and long with a delicate mineral finish.
Finca Las Moras:
Located in San Juan, Las moras went through a vineyard restructuring by leading consultant Richard Smart. Las moras focuses in microgrowing with a strict respect to their environment and the Argentinian Terroir
Mora Negra 2014 ( Private Import, $30). Univins & Spiriteux. A modern yet fine interpretation of Malbec. Creamy dark fruit with vanilla and valhrona chocolate. Sweet tasting and elegant.
Schroeder is a small family domaine situated in Patagonia, the last frontier of Argentinian wine. Their wines is a labor of love, in an extreme land with a dry a land and infinite horizons.
Saurus Select Malbec 2016 ( Private Import, $22.50)
On the nose, ripe red currants with roasted herbs. Polished with flavors consistent with the nose. Spiciy and elegant with long tannins.
In the paradise lost of Calchaqui, one of the rarest places in the world lies El Esteco state. Founded in 1982, by two french inmigrants, they craft elegant wines in high altitude vineyards ( 1800 meters).
Don David Reserve Malbec 2015. SAQ # 11156043. $16.95
On the nose, bright aromas of violets, ripe black fruits and fall spices
Full body with a silky palate and a nice acidity offering notes of blackberries, blueberries and cherries. Oak is well integrated with a medium to long finale.