World Malbec Day

The 3 Argentinean Malbecs we’ll have open this Saturday; Uvas Malbec, Ique Malbec and the Tukma Malbec are all from the famous wine region of Mendoza but from different sub regions.

And we’ll open one Malbec from Forest Hill in Denmark which they make in very small amounts, only available in exclusive and friendly stores like Swanny Cellars!

The wines for Mi Terruno Uvas Malbec 2014 are sourced (and hand-picked) from a vineyard in the region of Maipú in Mendoza, Argentina at 700 metres above sea level. Twenty percent of the wine, from 50 year old vineyards) was aged for just 2 months in American oak barrels.

IQUE (pronounced ‘ee-kay’) Malbec sources its grapes from the vineyards Finca Castro Barros and Medrano in the sub region of Luján de Cuyo in Mendoza. Here the vineyards are at 1000m. Post hand-picking, destemming, crushing and more, this wine actually sees no oak at all, come in and try it, we’ve been told it’s for immediate drinking, it’s so young and fresh!

Tukma Malbec is grown on the highest altitude vineyards (out of these 3) at 1700m. The vineyards are in the Calchaquí Valley (Tolombón and the most northerly wine region in Argentina, Salta). Hand-picked vines from deep, sandy clay soils and all of the wine is aged for 12 months in French oak. Drop in and try these Malbecs!

World Malbec Day has been celebrated worldwide since 2011 and we’ll be celebrating at Swanny Cellars!

We might associate Malbec with Argentina today (and it’s being grown more in Australia) but originally the grape was grown in France, in Bordeaux and the southwest, in Cahors. It was the phylloxera virus in the 1800s that led to severe losses of plantings and the frosts in Bordeaux in the 1956 didn’t much help matters. Malbec’s arrival in Argentina started in 1853 when it was transported by agronomist Michel Aimé Pouget and plantings increased from then. The significance of the 17th April is that on this day, a bill was submitted to create the first school of agriculture in Argentina.
Malbec is mainly found in the wine regions of Mendoza and San Juan where the soils are calcareous but not fertile, which helps to keep the yields down and encourages the vines to dig deep in the soil to reach the nutrients. Rainfall is low, just about 8 inches a year but the snow in the Andes means there is irrigation. Other varieties grown here are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Malbec is also found in smaller quantities in the less famous wine regions of Patagonia, Salta and La Rioja.

 

 

Malbecs and Malbec blends at Swanny Cellars
Malbecs and Malbec blends at Swanny Cellars

The wines made from are bold, fruit driven, tasty and diverse. Some are made for immediate drinking while others are capable of aging for years, if not decades. The variety is intensely dark in colour with aromas of cherries, strawberries and plums. If aged in oak it can develop some wonderful flavours of coffee and chocolate with hints of vanilla. When aged, the tannins can develop to be soft and silky.

 

We’ve found that Malbec works very well with steak; which happens to be the national food of Argentina. It kind of makes sense when you think of the vast open landscape, cattle ranches and those gauchos (cowboys).  This is beef country! There’s plenty of ways to eat steak; mince or spiced, put into empanadas, cooked asado-style (barbecue). In winter, we’ve found a dish which could work superbly; it’s called locro and it’s a thick stew not just popular  in Argentina, but also those countries bordering the Andes mountain range;  Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Ecuado. The ingredients are vast; white corn, sweet corn, onions, garlic, bacon, beef, chorizo plus seasoning and spices; cumin, bay leaves, paprika, plus some vegetables; butternut squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, tomatoes and a bit more. We’ll be looking at making a few stews with this over the winter months!

 

Argentina is an incredibly diverse country with an indigenous culture combined with influences of a strong Spanish, French, and Italian heritage that is evident in the passion of its people, especially in the production of their wine. The history of viticulture dates back to the 1500s when the first vine clippings were brought over by Spanish settlers.
Winemaking began with the production of wine for Mass by Catholic monks in the early 16th century. It then rapidly
accelerated in the 19th century when European immigrants brought their knowledge and experience and introduced grape varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot, and Semillon which thrived in the varied Argentine terroir and microclimates. The increasing demand for fine wines in the late 20th century caused a shift in Argentine winemaking that now sees it producing some of the most spectacular New World wines.

Argentina is the world’s 5th largest wine producing country and is in part responsible for the decline in Europe’s
production with enormous growth in popularity – in fact, Malbec is the most popular, fastest growing grape varietal in Australia and other countries such as the UK and US.

With an area of 3,761,274 km2, Argentina is the second largest country in South America and the eighth in the world. It boasts a great diversity of landscapes, from ice fields to dry lands, from mountainous reliefs to plateaus and plains, and woods and jungles. A large number of rivers flow across the country into the Atlantic. To the west lie the Andes, the world’s second highest mountain range after the Himalayas, where Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas, can be found.

Here there are more than 300 days of sunshine a year, low annual rainfall, and high altitudes, provides near perfect conditions for the growth of wine grapes. One thousand years ago, the native Huarpe Indians built an irrigation system to channel the pristine glacial waters of the mountains to the desert area of what became Mendoza (the largest wine producing region), creating an oasis to be used for farming. This irrigation system is still used by the winemakers of Mendoza today, giving them greater control over the growth and maintenance of the vines. The dry climate means the vines are less susceptible to mould and rot that could not only damage the vines, but also affect the flavours and aromas of the wine they produce. Mendoza’s high altitude causes large fluctuations in day and night time temperatures resulting in grapes that ripen slowly to produce highly flavourful wines with good acidity.

More than 30% of Argentina’s vineyards are planted with Malbec and it has the largest Malbec acreage in the world. This variety originally comes from South West France (in Cahors, east of Bordeaux), where it was called Côt and has a hard, tannic style. Due to its intense colour and dark hues, wines obtained from this variety were once called ‘the black wines of Cahors.’

We’re pleased to be able to celebrate World Malbec Day with you this weekend.

Cheers!