In Argentina, Malbec reigns supreme, but it’s catching on worldwide
By W. Peter Hoyne For Custom Media Solutions
Argentinian Malbec continues to find favor among consumers, with one report showing that U.S. consumption of this trendy red is nearing that of wine drinkers in Argentina.
A thirst for Malbec grew significantly between 2002 and 2011, with more than 4 million cases exported to the United States in 2010 and a 13 percent increase from 2011 to 2012. There has also been an increased following among international markets in Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil and China.
The robust black grape of Malbec is native to the Cahors region of southwestern France and has a long and storied history as a blending grape in Bordeaux. In the mid-1800s, at the request of Mendoza’s governor, French agronomist Michel Pouget secured Malbec cuttings from France and introduced this grape into Argentina’s alluvial soils. Growers discovered Malbec thrives in Argentina’s semi-arid climate and intense sunlight, achieving a riper style that was unlike the personality of Malbec from France.
Malbec is Argentina’s dominant grape, with more than 75,000 acres of vineyards. The majority of these vineyards reside along the foothills of the Andes in the city of Mendoza.
This darling red grape of Argentina can have many adaptations, ranging from spicy dark plums with sweet tannins to a more dramatic inky side with white pepper and soil-driven characteristics. Malbec grown at higher altitudes with more exposure to sunlight will exhibit deeper, vibrant colors while attaining optimal ripeness.
Nicolas Catena can be credited with reshaping the direction of the wine industry in Argentina. After an inspiring visit to Napa Valley during the 1980s, Catena returned with a commitment to increasing the quality of vineyard plantings in his country.
He implemented changes in the vineyards and spent years perfecting the quality of Malbec before introducing it into the U.S. market. Especially important was the fact that Catena realized the significance of planting Malbec at higher elevations to improve the aromatic components and flavor profile.
The wines of Alamos and Gascon are within the Catena portfolio, but remain separately managed properties that are stylistically different in their personality. The 2012 Alamos Selección Malbec is sourced from vineyards ranging from 1,000- to 5,000-feet elevation in the sunlit terraces of the Andes Mountains.
Winemaker Felipe Stahlschmidt directs the unique expression of Malbec grown in his native soils. This Malbec is dark ruby with floral elements of dried violets and rose petals along with a hint of underlying smokiness. The core is youthful black fruit with an inherent creamy texture intermixed with spices of winter savory and fennel.
This is wonderfully crafted and concentrated effort while being within the value driven tier of Catena wines. Suggested Retail: $ 19.99
Don Miguel Gascón Winery was originally known as Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón dating back to 1884, when it was founded by Don Miguel Escorihuela Gascón, who immigrated to Argentina from Spain. In 1993, a group of investors led by Catena purchased the winery.
Today the winery remains under the leadership of Catena’s oldest son, Ernesto Catena. The 2011 Don Miquel Gascon Reserva Malbec is a high-altitude wine with an opaque purple color. It displays a silky core of blueberry preserves layered with sweet cocoa, mint and supple tannins. This mouth-filling Malbec is more blue fruit driven in its expression and makes a statement without being overpowering. Suggested Retail: $ 24.99
W. Peter Hoyne has been a wine journalist for over 20 years, covering stories of national and international significance. While his professional relationships in the wine industry have allowed him to share a unique perspective of wine, he is also intrigued by the culinary aspect and harmony that exist between wine and food. As a wine advocate, he is committed to consumer education and is focused on upcoming trends and American wine-buying habits.