Today, April 17, 2013, marks the third anniversary of Malbec World Day. This year, Malbec will also be represented as a cultural and artistic expression using street art as the medium. In over 30 countries around the world, tastings, dinners and parties will be thrown to celebrate the grape. Known by other names in its native France — both Cot and Auxerrois, it is believed to have originated in either Cahors or northern Burgundy.
Why today? On this day in 1853, Argentine president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento proposed diversifying and expanding the country’s wine industry, including a school of agriculture. Malbec and other varieties were brought to the country on behalf of this effort, and it was not long after this time that Malbec’s storied history in Mendoza would really begin. Ten years later, as Phylloxera was wiping out most of the Malbec vines in France, the variety was thriving in the rugged, hot and high-altitude terrain of Argentina, with perhaps even better results than its homeland. The intense sunshine allowed the grapes to ripen fully, and the sandy soils were inhospitable to Phylloxera. And while the school of agriculture didn’t last, Argentine Malbec would begin to make headlines in the wine world. In the 1950’s, a major frost in France also destroyed large quantities of French vines, including 75% of the Malbec in Bordeaux and surrounding regions. While it has since recovered and is still popular in Cahors and other regions around the globe, it has been the most celebrated red variety in Argentina ever since. It is known for highly tannic, plummy and deep-colored wines on its own, or used in blends where it is employed to add depth and color.
Rating at an average 90 points from Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator and priced at about $20, this is a fine example of Mendoza’s pride that won’t break the bank. 12 months in French barrels round out a very likeable Malbec, with jammy black fruit, white pepper, subtle oak and hints of wildflowers. Fully-ripened vines also means these wines have more alcohol. This one reaches 14.5% abv and has a nice full body. You can feel the heat but it is not overwhelming. The tannins are astringent and the acidity bright, but all very well-integrated. It is amazingly smooth and dynamic at once.
If only I had a steak. Happy Malbec day!