Malbec is such a popular grape these days that we sold out these two masterclasses in next to no time. It was a great opportunity to explore different styles of wine based on just the one grape, depending on where the wine’s from, how it’s been aged, and what the grape’s been blended with. Different wines provoked different reactions from different people, but at the end of both nights everyone was agreed on a great line-up of wines.
what is Malbec and where is it grown?
Malbec orginates from South-West France, around the Dordogne town of Cahors, which is now the only appellation where Malbec is of importance (it has to be at least 70% Malbec). Since the 1500s, wine from Cahors has been called “the black wine” because of its intense colours and dark fruits. In Cahors, Malbec is actually called Cot, but because of the popularity of Argentinian Malbec it’s now quite common to see Cahors winemakers label their wine as Malbec.
The name Malbec comes from Bordeaux, where it was the most planted grape in the eighteenth century. There are lots of problems growing Malbec in Bordeaux, though, which saw plantings of the grape decline. In the 1950s, spring frost killed off many of Bordeaux’s Malbec vines and growers just did not bother replanting.
One reason for this is that Malbec is a late-ripening grape and the Bordeaux climate makes it difficult to guarantee that the grape fully ripens each year. In Argentina, this isn’t a problem. The high altitude of the vineyards in Mendoza (1,000m+) means hot temperatures in the day to ripen the grape, but cold temperatures at night to prolong the ripening process and keep the acidity high.
Throughout the twentieth century the Argentinian wine industry was churning out cheap, low-quality wine for domestic use (in the 1970s, the average Argentinian drank nearly 100 litres of wine a year; that’s now down to 30). With the upturn in the economy in the 1980s, though, winemakers decided to refocus on making high-quality wine for export, which has seen a transformation in the Argentinian wine industry, spearheaded by wines made from the Malbec grape.
what we tasted
Pulenta La Flor Malbec Rosé 2012 (£12.50) A rarity – a rosé made from Malbec – which surprised people with its complexity and quality. Aged for six months in new oak, there’s a spicy vanilla toastiness, with fresh, expressive red fruits, such as redcurrants and strawberries. As refreshing as a rosé should be, but with real depth of flavour.
Tesoro de los Andes Malbec Bonarda 2011 (£8) This proved a surprise hit at the tastings. Bonarda is the second most planted quality grape in Argentina (after Malbec) and it added yet more dark fruits to the Malbec. A very drinkable, fruit-driven wine.
Château Pineraie Cahors 2010 (£12.50; 85% Malbec, 15% Merlot) A traditional alternative to all the Argentinian wines on show. Very immediate and accessible, its blackberries and plums were balanced by soft oak and tannins.
Famiglia Bianchi Organic Malbec 2010 (£17.50) A store favourite, Bianchi make their wines in San Rafael, 250km south of Mendoza, a cooler climate at lower altitude (750m). Aged in a mixture of new and used French and American oak, this is a complex wine full of different flavours: raspberries, prunes, spices, tobacco, chocolate, and coffee.
Bressia Monteagrelo Malbec 2010 (£20) After the exuberant complexity of the previous wine, this was a much more restrained example of the Malbec grape. 18 months in French and American oak, the black fruits are quietly balanced with chocolate and vanilla; quite meaty and toasty on the palate, with fruity flavours gradually developing. A great wine to accompany meat dishes.
Renacer Allegrini Enamore 2011 (£22.50; 60% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Bonarda, 10% Cabernet Franc) A collaboration between an Argentinian producer and an Italian one, from Valpolicella, to make a wine in the Amarone style (the name of the wine is an anagram of Amarone). After harvest, the grapes are dried on mats until they lose about a third of their weight; the wine is then aged for 12 months in French oak. The result is a wine full of ripe plums and blackberries, dried figs and raisins, with vanilla, cocoa, toasty oak, and sweet cinnamon. The wine was so successful, we sold out on the first evening…
Masi Appaxximento Corbec 2009 (£30; 70% Corvina, 30% Malbec) This was the only wine where Malbec wasn’t the largest component. Masi are another Valpolicella producer who have gone to Argentina to produce wine in the Amarone style. Here the grapes were dried for 22 days, losing 20% of their weight. A meaty wine with baked and dried fruits, with high acidity to balance some of the sweet fruits.
Pulenta Gran Corte VII 2009 (£28.50; 37% Malbec, 27% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc) We finished where we started the evening; with a wine from Pulenta reflecting the grape’s Bordeaux history. Aged for 12 months in French oak, the wine has an expressively characteristic Bordeaux nose of red and black fruits, smoky oak, and still developing dried fruits. A great way to end the evening.
to buy any of these wines, just visit us at the shop or give us a call on 0161 832 8222
if you’re interested in future hangingditch masterclasses, visit our events page