Malbec, Argentinian excellence from north to south.
Those of you who have been following us for some time already know that April 17 commemorates World Malbec Day, the strain of wine commonly associated with Argentina.
He who would going on to later become the president of the Argentine Republic, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, is who in the mid-19th century commended to the French agronomist and ampelographer Michel Aimé Pouget the task of bringing new strains of vines to the other side of the Andes, after having known and seen him at work in the "La Quinta" Botanical Garden in Santiago during his exile in Chile. With the support of the then governor of the province of Mendoza, Pedro Pascual Segura, who in his youth was also a winegrower, Mr. Pouget founded the "Quinta Normal de Mendoza", a research center and school of agronomy which on 17 April 1853 was officially approved as such and whose founder will be the first director.
Since then, the Malbec from Argentina has experienced a diffusion and growth that leaves you speechless. Enough is it to say that about 400 thousand bottles of this wine are exported per day and that over 1600 different Malbec labels are exported from Argentina to the world. These are mind-boggling numbers for a country with a constantly devastated economy that struggles to find investors. Argentina is the largest Malbec exporter in the world. But there is a reason why this strain fell in love with our beloved land as the Argentine Vitivinicola Observatory explains, "Malbec found its best terroir in Argentina and quickly adapted to the different terroirs offered by the country's geography. The large amount of sunny days that the wine-growing areas of Argentina have favors the extraordinary production of Malbec grapes".
Although more than 85% of Malbec is produced in the Mendoza region, the first Malbec vineyards were planted in the early 1800s in the province of Salta. The beautiful project by Pancho Lavaque, Vallisto Cafayate, which we talked about in our blog in the Italian version earlier, seeks the recovery of these centenary vineyards. Salta and Mendoza are regions from which also come two of the best Empanadas recipes that Argentina has to offer and that we offer in our Empanadas menu. You may notice that we recommend them to you when it comes to accompanying one of the Malbecs of these regions that you can find in our wine list.
Enologist Angel Mendoza tells in an interview with an Argentine newspaper that decades ago, that before the Argentines discovered that they had Malbec among them, this strain was called 'French grape' to differentiate it from the 'criolla grape'. According to this winemaker, Malbeck was the surname of an Hungarian winemaker who spread this strain in France. From that moment it began to be identified as 'Mr. Malbeck's grape' and, of all the synonyms that were given to this grape, this was the name with which it finally arrived in Argentina. Mendoza also recalls that "in the oenology books present in the country at the beginning of the twentieth century, reference was always made to Malbec but with a k at the end".
Today the most exported Malbec is that of Cantina Alamos, which in 2019 exported over 10 million bottles that went from Argentina to the whole world. Until shortly before the pandemic, Alamos's Select Malbec is a Malbec many of you have tried at our spot in Corso Peschiera 198b. Unfortunately, the pandemic and logistic issues across the globe has slowed the importation not only of this but of many other bottles of Malbec that we would very much like to be able to offer you.
But which are the wineries that produce the best Malbec and the most renowned in Argentina?
Zuccardi Valle de Uco is currently recognized by The World's Best Vineyards as the number one winery worldwide. It is no coincidence that their Zuccardi Finca Piedra Infinita Malbec 2016 (whose cost of bottles in Argentina easily exceeds two hundred euros) received a hundred points from Robert Parker. Their bodega offers the visitor a unique experience in a breathtaking landscape at the foot of the Andes. Dream Malbecs are produced here.
One of the most admired wine brands of the world is no other than Bodega Catena Zapata. A winery founded in 1902 and through which Nicolas Catena Zapata has been able to put Argentine wines on the world map, pushing on the high quality they had to offer to the world. His daughter, Dr. Laura Catena leads a team of winemakers who can count on one of the best Argentine oenologists, and recognized worldwide, the "Messi of Wine" Alejandro Vigil (who together with Adrianna Catena, sister of Dr. Laura Catena, carries on Enemigo Wines).
Also, Catena produces some of the highest quality wines as the world renowned "Catena Malbec Argentino" (listed at 115€) and the "Catena Zapata Fortuna Terrae Adrianna Vineyard Malbec" (listed at 269€) as well as the "Catena Malbec", which, in my humble opinion, defines the essence of the everyday malbec at a very competitive price (31€). Catena Malbec represents a very safe way to enter the first level Malbec without having to spend a significant amount of money and that you can combine with our empanadas for a mix that will transport you through the palate to our beloved Argentina.
It is worth mentioning the other two Mendocine wineries present in the top 50 of best wineres in the world, which are Bodega Salentein and Bodega El Orgullo of Trapiche. Other projects in the same region that are worth following or to visit if you ever get the chance to go to Mendoza, are the historic Achaval Ferrer, Rutini Wine and Norton and why not, also the projects in which Marcelo Pelleriti, perhaps the best winemaker Argentina has at the moment, takes by the hand: the Monteviejo winery where Pelleriti is 'lord and master' (in the good sense) and Ojo de Agua of which he is the main oenologist. Finally Finca Sophenia and SuperUco (the most sustainable winery in the world) are two of the wineries that are innovating the most through biodynamic wines thanks to Matias Michelini and his family.
We close this blog entry by mentioning a small region in Argentine Patagonia that has been producing exceptional Malbec in recent years: San Patricio del Chañar. Located in the Neuquen region, this valley has some of the wineries that most have, and have impressed us with their Malbecs, these are Malma and Familia Schroeder (the Saurus Select Malbec is mum's favorite).
In the hope of having made you want to taste the different Malbecs that Argentina has to offer, we assure you one thing: you will never be disappointed, whether it is a Malbec from Salta, Mendoza or Neuquen, every glass will be a grateful discovery.