Malbec begins with “M”
“We only need to drink an abundant glass of black Malbec, from a good harvest and this inspires us to speak thus of this mystic wine”
by: Winemaker Angel Antonio Mendoza & Winemaker Juan C. Rodriguez Villa
Malbec begins with “M” for Mendoza, brought to this land of Argentina by the hand of Tiburcio Benegas, the aristocratic governor and founder of Trapiche Winery in 1883.
Miguel Pouget, was one of the first French winemakers that consulted with the Benegas family. He planted French varietals to differentiate them from the “Spanish wines” of the period.
The generically named “French grape” was the variety most widely planted in Argentina at the end of the 19th century. The first vineyard owners planted according to the European tradition: every six red plants, one white variety of Semillon. In this way, a blend was made, that following the old winemakers, balanced the great concentration of the color of Malbec by lessening the marked roughness caused by the tannins.
While the first Malbecs were from Las Heras, in El Plumerillo and Panquehua, (the Mendoza river region at 2300 feet above sea level), it was in Maipu and Lujan de Cuyo, where Malbec was born. They are so memorable the Malbecs of Medrano, Barrancas, Cruz de Piedra, Lunlunta, Perdriel, Agrelo, Ugarteche, Vistalba, Las Compuertas, Drummond, and Chacras de Coria.
Then the foothills of Valle de Uco, express their intense character of ripe black berries and their profound bishop red. The Malbecs of San Carlos, La Consulta and Vista Flores are impressive because these grapes grow with very cool summer nights of less than 53°F.
In the south of Mendoza, in San Rafael, exists some privileged land, which expresses in the variety a spicy, menthol character.
“M” for Macho, because it was a manly red wine. It was drunk by more men than women. It also integrated the blends of table wines in the first 7 decades of the 20th century, where the culture of wine grew by the hand of the European immigrants.
The winemaking grandfathers, wet the pacifiers of their grandchildren with Malbec to sterilize them against Cholera and Salmonella and to make them more delicious. These legendary grandfathers, conserved their good memory and never used Viagra! A well set table with Malbec was enough. With more than 7 children, they worked the vineyards until well into their 70’s.
“…Old man, my beloved old man, born in the century of industry and red wine…”
My father was a lover of this red wine that my mother sent him to buy at the corner store that he enjoyed with his lunches and dinners.
This wine was from Malbec and I never thought it would be our life’s work during these last 38 years.
“M” for Manso, (Tame), with a red, violet color so impressive, but with a friendly, long taste. With medium acidity and soft tannins that envelope you tamely like the Mendocinos that produce them.
This quality is one of the most appreciated in the world of wine and is the reason that French investors came to Argentina; to bet on a variety that was not able to express itself or distinguish itself in the aristocratic soils of Bordeaux.
A rich Malbec competes with better results, against the virtues of a blend of Cabernet-Merlot of the Medoc.
“M” for Malleable. Because this grape adapts well to be able to create seductive wines, like Blanc de Noir, the base of solemn sparkling wines, and Rosés for appetizers and eastern foods. Simple varietal Malbecs, with 4 to 5 days of maceration on its skins, wines to be consumed in the year with their rich fruit expression that match well with everyday food. Those superb cellaring Malbecs, matured in oak, that impress the world and those that are the pride of Argentine winemakers.
Also it is possible to create intellectual wines for the study, for cigars and for fall gatherings of the style of Port, Passito, Ripasso, Ricioto and Amarone.
Malleable for its participation in noble red wine blends, single vineyard wines of all kinds and blends of Malbecs from various microclimates.
It is also malleable for its reflection of the terroir of Argentina with over 1250 miles of distance between the North and the South, an oasis of mountain rivers in the foothills of the Andes mountain range.
“M” for Morado, (Purple). This red varietal, possesses a distinguished and unique composition of anthocyanins, where it is malvidin that lends the violet purple pigment with red borders, which is stable during the first 3-4 years of life.
This character distinguishes itself from the rest of the red wines, (Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Tempranillo), with different anthocyanins that are more unstable and rapidly show nuances of copper, ocher, and chocolate.
Its intense chromatic and purple pigment increases as the vineyard’s altitude rises on the solid eastern slope of the foothills of the Andes.
At 3280 feet above sea level, the most noble and biggest bodied Malbecs of Argentina are obtained. The synthesis of anthocyanins during the maturity of the grapes needs warm but not hot days. At 95° F, enzymatic activity of the phytochrome ceases. Also, cool nights of 59° F are required for biological compounds to be formed by photosynthesis the next day. The viticulture in altitude permits us to obtain Malbecs that are more notable.
“M” for Mujer, (Woman). Surely, beside every winery owner, every Argentine winemaker or producer of good Malbec, there is a noble woman that inspires and counsels him in each piece of work on this emblematic varietal.
But also today, Argentine Malbec, enjoys its creation by beautiful feminine hands of important, professional women, many of which were licensed by the Don Bosco College, by the Umaza Enology School and Mendoza’s Agrarian Science College.
“M” for Music. A great Malbec, tasted in the tranquility of the family table or in the aristocracy of the restaurant, is like an exciting symphony of chords and sensory notes that tranquilize the spirit and predispose an excellent digestion.
This wine is a psychic stimulant of intellectual activity; its vivacious character brings returns of optimism, sociability and it is a producer of happiness.
We have always understood and compared the great wines as a masterpiece conducted by an excellent director of orchestra, which is the winemaker.
“M” for Madrigal, (short lyrical poem) Also a noble Malbec, made with love by many hands: viticulturist, agronomist, vineyard operator and cellar hand, winemaker, lab technician, salesman, general manager, all remember the brief poetic composition in which is expressed an affection or delicate thought. At times this transforms into a “lyrical musical composition of many voices”, that after the second cup, acclaims its seductive and respectful honesty.
These “M”s, mark their genetic quality and distinguish themselves in each vineyard site of Argentina.
But also, this varietal has an “M” for Mala (Bad):
In deep soils, it expresses itself with vigor with big broad, overlapping leaves that hide the fruit from the sun betraying its disagreeable, herbaceous and bitter tannins.
This ampelographic character also impacts the differentiation of fruitful buds of the next harvest, beginning to express through the years, an infertility that does not help the producer, because it lowers the income from the grape production of the vineyard through the appearance of male plants.
This excess of leaves also impacts the harvest by passing bitter flavors to the crushed grapes. So, the high-end wines need a selecting belt, prior to destemming or crushing.
Cold springs provoke an incomplete fruiting flower set. This is the economic reason for which Malbec did not prosper in Bordeaux.
In viticultural regions with temperate springs and deep, generous soils with high fertility of flower set, grapes grow with more than two seeds and of large size and volume. These bunches, weighing more than 200 grams at maturity, possess less concentration and components that lend varietal personality.
“With fat grapes, you will always produce lean wines”
Translated by: Kirk Ermisch, Southern Wine Group