From a standing start, barely four years ago, when nobody had heard of Malbec (indeed, the Argentineans were busy pulling it up in favour of sexier varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon), Malbec is now completely and totally ‘in’. It’s the wine of choice for so many occasions, for so many people.
It’s an easy wine to like, not necessarily subtle, but easy to take on board with its punchy dark fruits, richness, power and voluptuous feel. Perhaps more to the point, it’s an easy name to pronounce and an easy name to remember. Sometimes, when the masses speak, they can be accused of getting it wrong – leg-warmers, Eastenders, Michael Bublé – but, with Malbec, they may just have unlocked a new taste sensation for us all to enjoy.
The name Malbec is, apparently, derived from the Spanish for ‘bad mouth’ – mala boca – owing to the colour a few too many glasses lend to the teeth and gums!
Some time in the 19th Century, somebody took some vines from Bordeaux and plonked them in the ground in Mendoza (Mendoza – about halfway up the country, on the left hand side, wedged up against the Andes). Among said vines was some Malbec, which decided to thrive in its new home. 150+ years later and Mendoza Malbec is everyone’s favourite red wine.
There’s a lot of it, Mendoza is a big place with a lot of Malbec vines, costs are lower than in Europe or Australia, so you get quite a lot of bang for your buck – another important part of the appeal. And bang for your buck we can do – witness Finca Flichman’s Tanguero or the Durou ‘Exception’ (more of Malbec Français later on). But, beyond the large-scale budget Malbecs, there is an increasing move toward a little more class and sophistication in your Malbec, and class and sophistication is right up our street…
Aruma 2013 Bodegas Caro £11.95
Any wine produced from by a partnership between Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) and the great Argentine wine-maker Nicolas Catena is going to be a good thing, and this wine is almost the perfect Mendoza Malbec. Deep, sexy, lush, intense and, well, Malbec-y, but the Aruma just has a bit more polish at the finish, a bit of a softer landing.
Amancaya 2012 Bodegas Caro £14.95
For some serious heft, move on up to this chunky gripping Malbec/Cabernet blend. Great drinking with that perennial favourite of Argentine cuisine – a lump of steak.
Caro 2010 Bodegas Caro £35.95
Or, for a more serious and cellar-worthy bottle, this time featuring more Cabernet than Malbec, aged in oak for 18 months, there is the partnership’s proper serious collaboration. The name ‘Caro’, incidentally, is taken from Nicolas CAtena and ROthschild.
Cuvelier Los Andes ‘Colección’ 2010 £21.95
The Cuvelier family are from Bordeaux (where they own Leoville Poyferré and Le Crock), and a Bordelais feel instructs their wines – classy, a little more subtle and a little more sophisticated than ‘typical’ Mendoza Malbecs. More along the lines (ish) of claret with a dollop of Malbec thrown in.
59% Malbec, 16% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot
“I often find the Cuvelier de los Andes wines to be the most European of those produced at Clos de los Siete. This blend of Malbec with Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot is supple and spicy, with savoury, dried herbs notes, elegant oak integration and a mineral finish. No one seems to be trying too hard to make a statement wine here. Drink: 2014-19”
Tim Atkin MW, www.timatkin.com
Remember, earlier on in the story, somebody taking Malbec vines from Bordeaux to Argentina – yes, Bordeaux. Malbec is still allowable in Bordeaux, although rarely seen. After disastrous frosts in 1956 wiped out most Malbec vines, they were mostly replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. But, inland from Bordeaux, Malbec clings on in the vineyards of Cahors, straddling the River Lot. Aside from the astoundingly good value Durou ‘Exception’ from Château de Gaudou, we have an excellent brace of Malbecs (Malbi?) from Pascal Verhaeghe at Château du Cèdre.
Cèdre Héritage Malbec 2012 Cahors £9.95
90% Malbec (known, locally, as Cot or Auxerrois) with 10% Merlot. A shade drier, perhaps, than a classic Argie but with all the dark fruits you expect.
Château du Cèdre 2011 Cahors £16.95
90% Malbec and 10% Tannat. A more classy seductive affair, again drier than you might expect a Malbec to be, full-bodied with good tannins, and a silkier edge to the solid dark fruits.
Remember, there is a case price discount on any 12 bottles bought.