Argentina’s flagship variety, malbec has become synonymous with this South American country. But the grape originally hails from France and was only introduced to Argentina in 1852. So what is it about the malbec grown in Argentina that has it consistently being recognized as being the best in the world?
What makes Argentine malbec the best in the world?
With the largest acreage of malbec vines in the world, Argentina is undoubtedly its global home. In fact, vineyards cultivating this now emblematic grape run through the country, from Salta in the far north, to the internationally-famed and largest malbec producing region, Mendoza and even further south into Patagonia.
From the 1990s, Argentina malbec has consistently outperformed the competition. But what is it about Argentina that has enabled this country to produce the finest malbecs in the world?
The answer lies in the country’s unique terroirs, which are distinctive in several ways:
- The grapes are often grown at high-altitude, with winemaking regions located along the flanks of the Andes Mountains.
- These high-altitude locations result in extreme temperature changes between hot, sunny days and cold night times, slowing the ripening process and producing fruit with balanced levels of sugar and acidity.
- The soils in Argentina are also unique. Andean snows have created alluvial sand and clay soils rich in minerals.
- These conditions vary across the country, meaning that each region is able to produce malbec wine with subtly different flavors.
As a result, the malbec cultivated in Argentina is known for being exceptionally drinkable thanks to its high levels of alcohol and fruit, combined with a soft, silky texture and a deep, rich color.
Where can you sample Argentine malbec?
Guaranteeing quality are the Controlled Denomination of Origins (CDO) or appellations that have been attributed to vineyards in various Argentine regions. They have helped certain valleys establish a reputation for excellence.
If you’re looking to sample malbec in Argentina, the best valleys include:
Luján de Cuyo: a short distance south of Mendoza, the most famous of all malbec regions, Luján de Cuyo actually received the first CDO in all of the Americas. This valley is characterized by high-altitude vineyards planted at 3,620 ft. (1,100m) above sea level and which experience a dry, desert-like climate with intense heat during the day and cool temperatures at night from the alpine winds of the Andes.
The Uco Valley: although still a relatively unknown region, a recent increase in investment in this valley, situated to the west of Mendoza, makes it one to keep an eye on for the future. Vineyards here are cultivated at 3,900 ft. (1,190m) making it amongst the highest wine-producing valleys in the world.
Where else can you find malbec around the world?
As the grape originally hails from France, it’s unsurprising that the Bordeaux and Cahors regions in the south west are still famed for their malbecs. However, other parts of the world now grow this grape, including Chile, where a similar climate and soil conditions have allowed local vineyards to produce excellent malbec, particularly in Viu Manent, one of the first in the country to grow the grape.
New Zealand and Australia are also experimenting with malbec, although on a far smaller scale than in South America. In the former, malbec is often used in Bordeaux style blends, while in Australia a growing trend of 100% malbecs is developing, particularly in vineyards located in the south around Adelaide.