Malbec - Certainly a name we are familiar with for the simple fact that we’ve been exposed more and more to this varietal in BC these days. Be it on the shelves of liquor stores, in restaurants’ wine lists, poured during fund-raising events, at a friend’s private patio gathering or more often than before, at our very own dinner parties. Various Argentina wine tasting sessions and the world renowned Malbec World Day activities obviously help push Argentina Malbec into the spotlight; noticeable even to novice drinkers. Argentina Malbec, a wine that offers excellent value but wouldn’t break the bank, has certainly reached the height of popularity amongst those seeking qualitative satisfaction in their everyday wine sips.
Argentina Malbec’s unique background is both interesting and historic. It was brought over from France in 1868 when frost and mildew wiped out the varietal in France. The belief that the indigenous clone is extinct in France gives epic lineage to this varietal grown and flourished in Argentina. Despite the fact that the Argentina clone of Malbec is characteristically different from the Malbec planted in France nowadays, it is the only clone in the world with true French heritage. With over 76,000 acres and almost five times as high as France’s volume, Argentina produces the highest volume of Malbec in the world.
Now a globally favoured choice of red wine, this dark ruby hue varietal offers a remarkable flavour profile, good structure and substance. A thin skin varietal, Malbec has softer tannins but enough intensity to make it a medium to full bodied wine with a palatable appeal to most wine drinkers. While Malbec in France is mainly used in a blend, winemakers in Argentina are crafting 100% Malbec wines with amazing results.
The Mendoza area in Argentina, where 85% of Malbec is grown, is granted with excellent terroir which allows this varietal to dominate and perform strongly. The cool air from the Andes and the natural moisture in the valley prevents mildew, frost and harmful fungi. Increasing production gaining world-wide recognition, no wonder “Flagship” is the term commonly used to describe Malbec as a varietal in Argentina.
Thanks to the location of their vineyards in the Mendoza region, the quarter-century old Dona Paula Winery’s superb lineup of Malbec has roots and histories far beyond that and their wine production truly represents what Argentina wine, especially Malbec of that region is all about 1999 was their first vintage; still relatively young compared to other long time producers in Argentina but the wines speak for themselves. At a tasting event of Dona Paula Malbec hosted by their winemaker Marco Fernandez, I had the great opportunity to appreciate how well Malbec is doing in the Mendoza region.
- Dona Paula Estate Malbec 2013 from the Valle De Uco in Mendoza: The smooth mouth feel is an attention-grabber. Intense aroma of berries and dark fruit with a hint of herbs and smokiness. Harvested in April from vineyards at elevation of around 3,500 ft. on rocky clays makes it a cool climate wine. Marco applied an intelligent method of cold maceration to obtain maximum concentration and bouquet before fermentation. The 10 months in French oak gives the wine its deep ruby red hue and full-bodied structure.
- Dona Paula Selection de Bodega Malbec 2008: Luscious and velvety on entry, this Malbec is from the best vineyards in the Uco Valley. Also a cool climate wine with vineyards at the 3,000 ft. elevation bestowed with warm, dry days and cool nights. The vineyards benefit from drip irrigation to allow the grapes to develop to its best. While similar winemaking process was employed, this wine was aged in French barriques for 14 to 18 months. The aging difference encouraged the development of an enticing aroma with a slight hint of mint and smokiness that stays for a while.
- The Dona Paula El Alto Parcel Malbec 2010: Crafted with grapes from one of the three parcels of vineyards treasured by Dona Paula who decided to craft a wine from each parcel in order to showcase the land’s distinct characteristic. At 4,000’ high, the El Alto Parcel is blessed with rich mineral-based soil of clay and stones. This wine was made with extra care and attention; enabling the preservation of juiciness and the inviting aroma of blackberries and plum. With 14 months also in French barriques; the finish is soft and tinged with a mystic hint of spice. This is an elegant, lengthy and seductive wine. Crafted with TLC that Marco is proud of, this Malbec is an ideal candidate for cellaring.
- The Dona Paula Selection de Bodega Chardonnay: Though not a Malbec, this Chardonnay, infused with citrus and tropical fruit notes upon entry, is a palate-pleasing wine that fits the Dona Paula philosophy. The 6 to 8 months in French oak provides complexity and a hint of fattiness on the finish. Good acidity and balance makes this both a food-friendly wine.