The Wine Spectator recently released its Top 100 Wines for the year. Argentina was well represented with five wines (Australia had six), and all of the Argentine wines were malbecs, mainly from the Mendoza region at the foothills of the Andes in Argentina.
According to the Wine Spectator’s wine critic Matt Kramer: “There is no greater value in red wine anywhere in the world today than Argentine malbec.” (Augustus Weed, 2010 New World Wine Experience: Miraculous Malbec, The Wine Spectator, 1 November 2010). Of the five Argentine wines in the Top 100, only the Trapiche Mendoza Vina Fausto Orellana de Escobar 2007 (rrp $US48) was more than $US25.
Malbec is one of the accepted varieties in Bordeaux. The Cahors region in south-west France was granted appellation controlee status in 1971. Due to the ravaging effects of phylloxera and changing tastes, until recently malbec plantings in Cahors were in decline. But perhaps spurred on by the export success of the variety in Argentina, some outstanding producers are now making fine examples of this big, rich and darkly coloured ‘black’ wine.
The spotlight, however, is on Argentine Malbec. Here the variety thrives in the high altitude and semi-desert landscapes of Mendoza and the surrounding regions. One of the wines in the Top 100, the Bodega Colomé Malbec 2008 (ranked 66th), from the Calchaqui Valley of the Salta province, holds the record for the world’s highest vineyard at 3000 metres!
The combination of high altitude, long days of bright sunshine and the warm, dry La Zonda winds, which bring warmth to the high altitude vines, produce vivid fruit of intense flavours, good acidity and fine tannins. Many of the better wines are made from 100 plus year old vines.
In contrast, French malbec is subject to a shorter growing season, which produces less ripe grapes and more austere (leaner and greener) and structured wines with more minerality. In fact, the Wine Spectator’s James Molesworth argues “there are few cases where so stark a distinction can be drawn between New World and Old World wines made from the same grape.”.. [Read More]