Argentina’s Mouthwatering Malbec!
Rich, flavourful Malbec wines play a key part in Argentina’s vibrant wine and food culture. Earlier this winter, the Embassy of Argentina hosted a Malbec evening, which gave Ottawa wine lovers the opportunity for a deep dive into the world of winemaking in Argentina. The evening kicked off with a highly informative talk given by Marie-France Champagne, Coordinator of both the Sommelier Programme at Algonquin College and its Bartending Course. Then, we were treated to four outstanding Malbec wines accompanied by delicious canapés.
What did we learn?
1) Argentina is located roughly 9,000 km from Ottawa, with a vast diversity of terroirs stretching through its 3700 km distance from north to the southern tip. Each region has its unique Malbec vineyards, and this diversity of terroirs leads to various styles of Malbec.
2) Argentina is the only country that considers altitude as a key factor of terroir. Altitude serves as a temperature regulator because, for every 150 metres of rise in altitude, the temperature drops by 1 degree Celsius.
3) Spanish colonisers brought the first specimens of grape seeds to America in the 16th century. Thus, the production and consumption of wines in Argentina began. Catholic priests who cultivated vineyards near their monasteries were important in their propagation. Their work ensured the production of wine to celebrate Holy Mass. Today, there are more than 885 wineries in Argentina.
4) Malbec vines that grew in Argentina escaped the phylloxera plague that destroyed so many vines in Europe.
5) The main source of irrigation in mountain valleys is the meltwater from the Andes. Therefore, the water is completely pure and free from the influence of any contaminating sources. In lower areas, sustainable use of water and irrigation techniques are a priority.
During the 19th century, European immigrants introduced new cultivation techniques and other varieties of grapes, which found ideal growing conditions in the Andes and the Río Colorado Valley. In the 20th century, the wine industry underwent important changes; it went from mass production for domestic consumption to higher-quality wines and lower-volume production. Malbec vines thrived in Argentina and produced wines even superior to those made from the original vines grown in southwest France.
What did we taste?
Catena Malbec High Mountain Vines 2020
Maipú & Uco Valley, Mendoza
This rich, elegant Malbec is produced from sustainably grown grapes. It’s a deep violet purple, intensely aromatic and medium-bodied with a velvety texture. It offers beautiful aromas of ripe red berries, plums, violet and lavender with suggestions of vanilla and mocha. The concentrated palate gives blueberries and blackberries, with slight cinnamon and a touch of leather. The tannins are smooth, and the acidity bright. A truly delicious wine with an exceptionally long finish. An excellent choice with prime rib or grilled sausages.
Dry 13.5% • LCBO VINTAGES# 478727 • $23.95
Doña Paula Estate Malbec 2022
Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
This intensely violet-coloured wine is crafted from hand-picked grapes. It’s an elegant and aromatic wine that shows notes of blackberry, red plums, violets, spices and slight mineral aspects. Excellent structure and balance on the palate, with flavours that echo the aromas. Enjoy this wine paired with roast pork or beef dishes.
Extra dry • 14.5% • LCBO# 394783 • $17.95
Pascual Toso Limited Edition Malbec 2021
Barrancas, Maipú District, Mendoza, Argentina
This Malbec is made from hand-harvested grapes grown in one of the best wine-growing areas in Mendoza. Plums and quince aromas show on the nose, with a touch of elegant oak. The palate adds blackberry and liquorice flavours. The wine shows excellent structure and balance, and there’s a rich, lingering finish with accents of vanilla and oak. Enjoy it with braised short ribs.
Extra dry • 14% • LCBO# 162610 • $20.
Trapiche Gran Medalla Malbec 2019
Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
Trapiche is Argentina’s largest wine producer and, in 2019, was awarded New World Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. It has won hundreds of awards in the last decade. Gran Medalla is a full-bodied, plush and velvety wine with ripe cherry, violet, blueberry, red currant and fine herb aromas and flavours. It has a silky mouthfeel and excellent balance. Drink now or cellar until 2030. Looking for a wine to pair with roast duck? This is your winner. Also great paired with roast game or beef bourguignon.
Extra dry • 14.5% • VINTAGES# 467977 • $32.95
Fun fact: World Malbec Day is celebrated by wine lovers annually on April 17th.
If you are fortunate enough to visit Argentina, here are three bars in Mendoza that are highly recommended for food and wine lovers:
@thegarnishbar has an impressive selection of 420 whiskies from all across the world and a wide drinks and cocktails menu.
Why do I love Malbec?
Malbec is very much a food wine. I love it as a flavourful, versatile alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon when I serve beef, and it absolutely sings with lamb or duck. It’s also a great match for fajitas. In addition to the dark berry and herbal elements, what makes Malbec unique for me is the harmonious mocha aspect. In Argentina, it’s a favourite choice at #asaditos (barbeques), which are a popular way to socialise. Our own barbeque season is a few months away, alas, but meanwhile, enjoy it paired with beef prime rib, lamb chops, or pork tenderloin.
To learn more about Malbec, watch this 2023 Wines of Argentina video:
Header image: iStock