17 April 2017
Today 164 years ago, with the support of Mendoza’s Governor Pedro Pascual Segura, a bill for the foundation of a Quinta Normal and a School of Agriculture was submitted to the Provincial Legislature. Thereafter, April 17 was chosen by Wines of Argentina for the celebration of Malbec World Day, not only because the creation of the Quinta Normal represented the transformation of Argentine winemaking, but because it amounted to the starting point for the development of Malbec, the flagship variety of the Argentine wine industry worldwide.
Argentina now has the largest Malbec acreage in the world. This variety originally comes from South West France, where it is called Côt and features a hard, sleek and tannic style. With a hugely different characteristic, Argentina Malbec is usually remarkably soft, rich and palate-coating.
In its birthplace Bordeaux, Côt is prone to certain fungal disease, and thus after the Phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s, very little was replanted in Bordeaux, a wet climate at risk for fungal problems. Argentina, with a arid climate and cooling influences from high altitude, has given Malbec a new home.
What I am tasting is Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec 2013. It is made from vineyards of high altitude Mendoza, which is renowned of producing more elegant wines, displaying fresher, more floral aromas as compared with those from lower altitude of fuller-bodied. Vineyard lots are harvested at different times to ensure optimal natural acidity and moderate alcohol levels. Whole berries are hand loaded into small format fermentation bins and 225-500 L barrels; lots from each vineyard are treated individually; fermentation and maceration last for 10 – 35 days; 30% cold maceration. Wild yeasts. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel; wine undergoes active battonage to protect it and drastically reduce the amount of sulphur dioxide needed. Aged for 18 months in French oak.
In my glass, the wine is dark purple in colour, showing intense ripe black fruit paired with violet, liquorice and chocolate, well balanced with lively acidity, all lingering on the palate with a long finish. Its fruit is ripe, but it is not at all sweet, it is refreshing, subtle and elegant while delicious. Its 14% alcohol, though high, is well integrated with the flavours.
It is pairing well with the Iberia ham and my home-made Gnocchi Bolognese.
If you are still figuring out what to drink tonight, pick one Malbec on this Malbec World Day!