There are wines that have gained the status of icons: model and flagship drinks that proudly represent their region or country internationally. There are several such stars in Europe. Burgundy, champagne, porto or chianti are household names, known to experts and dilettantes alike. The situation is quite different in the so-called New World, where the history of wine making is much shorter. Winemaking traditions were exported to these countries by Europeans who brought their knowledge and experience gained on the old continent. It took a long time before local varieties were discovered and, eventually, became popular to the extent of becoming new icons.
What associations does Argentina evoke? Some may say Pope Francis, others will mention tango, football and, obviously, Buenos Aires – a vibrant and modern metropolis of three million inhabitants. Let us not forget the country’s famous cuisine! Argentineans devour large quantities of what is considered some of the world’s best beef. It tastes even better when served with locally produced red wines! When it comes to the consumption of wine, Argentina ranks first among the countries of South America. It is the world’s fifth producer of wine and is a leader on its continent. Red wine called malbec is considered the most important local product.
In the dark of the past
Malbec is an old French variety of dark grapes, rarely grown today. In the 19th century, it was the predominating grape variety in the famous region of Bordeaux. Today, it is only used as a modest addition to the Bordeaux mix. The tiny Cahors, in southwest France, remains its last stronghold. This beautiful town on the Lot river lies off the beaten track between Bordeaux and Toulouse. Today it is difficult to imagine that, centuries ago, it was one of the hubs of wine culture. It owes its fame to the black wine of Cahors. This wine was and, to this day, is produced precisely from the Malbec variety, which in France is referred to as côt or auxerrois. Wines from Cahors are characterized not only by their inky dark colour, but also by their full-bodies structure, dryness and robust tannins. This is why the French côt is often compared to the Argentine malbec wine, often in favour of the latter.
As sensual as tango
Fortunately, as many as three-quarters of the world’s crops of malbec are produced in Argentina. Argentina’s President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento had his role in this, when he intelligently supported the development of Argentine winemaking. He commanded the services of the French botanist Michel Pouget, who brought the malbec variety to the vineyards of the Andes, most probably on 17 April 1853. In memory of this event, the Dia Mundial del Malbec was recently established in Argentina. Malbec definitely deserves its own holiday: not only does it look stunning in the vineyards in the province of Mendoza, surrounded by the snowy Andean peaks, but also yields excellent results: wines with soft and juicy tannins, a clear fruity taste, a full body and beautiful colours. Those produced in vineyards located at the altitude of as much as 1,000 to 1,500 m above the sea level in the subregions of the Uco Valley, as well as Luján de Cuyo are considered the most excellent. Grapes subjected to high daily amplitudes of temperature ripen fully while retaining the perfect degree of acidity. The aromas of cherry, plum and forest fruit predominate in malbec. As a side note, let us quote this press information: according to the prestigious magazine Decanter, the best Argentine wine this year is Vinos de la Luz Iluminado Malbec 2015.