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Vinformation – All About Malbec

We’ve just listed a superb new organic Malbec from Argentina and that got me thinking about how quickly the rise in this grape’s popularity has been and what it was up to before then…

Malbec – A Brief History

Even though this grape is probably synonomous with Argentina more than any other country, its origins lie in the south west of France, notably Cahors and Bordeaux. Although still grown in the latter, its use has been pretty non-existent since the 1956 when a severe frost killed most of the vines and they were replaced with better known varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc. Its popularity was already on the wane as it was prone to disease so the famous frost of ‘56 was the final nail in the coffin.

It was a different story however 100 miles or so west in Cahors where the Côt grape (as it was known in the past) flourished. Here a more continental climate meant that rot was less of an issue than in the maritime influenced Bordeaux and the higher altitude suited the grape better too. The reds from Cahors were traditionally quite inky, full-bodied and tannic and could take many years to mature and this suited the wine consumer tastes of most of the 20th century. However, as the world saw a demand for more approachable wines in the 1990s, the Malbecs from Cahors became less appealing and in stepped Argentina to begin its remarkable rise as a serious wine producing nation.

Malbec is thought to have first arrived in Argentina indirectly from Bordeaux (via Chile) around 1850. By the 1980s the Malbec was by far the most planted grape in the country but as it wasn’t an internationally recognised variety many vines began to be pulled up in favour of the more fashionable Cabernet Sauvignon. However in the Mendoza region, considered the country’s finest for viticulture, some serious Malbecs started to be produced and a realisation occurred that the terroir here suited the grape brilliantly. In the early 1990s only about 1% of Argentina’s harvest was being exported but in just 25 years this has risen to over 30% and the quality of Argentine Malbec is recognised throughout the world. Its ripe and fruit driven style certainly struck a chord with wine tastes of the 2000s and made many producers in Cahors change their wine making techniques. These days many wines produced from this south west France region are less tannic and require fewer years in bottle to mature.

And across the Atlantic, as the tastes of wine lovers around the world move to a more refined and less robust style of red, the best producers in Mendoza have adapted to this with many of their Malbecs showing superb elegance balanced with a ripe richness. Here’s our latest discovery from there.

2020 Chinchero Organic Malbec, Bodega Vinecol, Mendoza, Argentina @ £12 per bottle

“Organic since their inception in 2000, Bodega Vinecol are based in the east of the Mendoza region. Their vines are at 1000m altitude and all the grapes are harvested by hand. In the winery their state of the art European equipment means the quality of what is produced is never compromised.  The Chinchero sees no oak but despite this there is excellent structure to the wine. There’s plenty of the juicy plum and blackcurrant that’s the hallmark of Mendoza but this is all kept in order by the wonderful freshness gained by having healthy vines at this altitude. The finish is long and moreish. This is exactly how Argentinian Malbec should be but is sadly not always the case.” JW

You can order this and hundreds of other delicious wines on the Songbird Wines on-line shop.


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