An unloved grape finds a welcoming home. Argentina has been producing wine continuously since the mid-16th century, and successfully too–it’s the world’s fifth largest wine industry–but the Malbec grape has rather suddenly put the country on international wine drinkers’ minds. The Malbec, an obscure (and getting obscure-er) red blending grape in Bordeaux and a cornerstone elsewhere only in France’s Cahors, has found love and stardom in Argentina…well, once they stopped tearing it out. As recently as the 1980s Malbec was being uprooted by the acre in Argentina and replaced by more trendy grapes like Chardonnay and Merlot.
Nowadays, Malbec is, of course, the country’s wine calling card, hot as the tango and nearly as inebriating. As an inexpensive wine, Malbec turns out to be very ingratiating, supple, juicy and easy to like. In the hands of more ambitious winemakers, it is a major surprise–giving blended reds a deep shot of dark fruit exoticism.
It doesn’t hurt that Argentina’s best Malbecs are planted at high altitude, which reduces fertility and concentrates its flavors, or that Argentina’s mountain vineyards suffer much less from the kinds of mildews and rots that plague the grape back in France.
There are plenty of winning, if not memorable $12-$15 Argentine Malbecs around. But take a step up and see what the grape can really do. Read the rest of this article