A dive into New World Malbec…
Every wine lover knows about Argentinian Malbec, so when the New World started tackling this South American grape, it was only right that we would have questions. What’s the difference in price? What’s the difference in wines produced and how did Malbec become such a prominent grape in red blend wines?
The History of Malbec:
Malbec wine wasn’t a known name until two decades ago when Argentina introduced it to the world, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s when affordable Argentinian Malbec showed up on the European and North American markets.
The most famous European to have impacted the Argentinean winemaking industry is the French agricultural engineer Michel Aimé Pouget. It all began when the Governor of the Cuyo region (who would later become the President of Argentina), Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, sent a proposal to the national Argentine government to develop and expand the winemaking industry. Pouget was hired as a viticulture specialist and this important event is celebrated every year with what is now known as World Malbec Day. Pouget founded the first agricultural school and vine nursery in Argentina in Mendoza and he introduced French grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Malbec.
Talk to me about New World Malbec
Previously, the Australian Shiraz was the reigning king of inexpensive – yet very popular – easy-drinking red wines. Malbec hit the world by storm, coming in as a new grape that was easily compared to Bordeaux blends. But how did the New World evolve? How did they keep up with the times?
An unconventional way to utilise the Malbec grape?
As you can see on our website, we only have a few 100% Malbec wines, but why is this? Malbec is a thin-skinned grape and needs more sun and heat than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to mature. It can bring a very deep colour, ample tannin and a plum-like flavour.
As a varietal, it produces an intense wine, so it is commonly used in blends such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create the traditional ‘Bordeaux’ claret blend.
Vasse Felix Winery and Malbec:
From the founder’s first plantings in 1967, the original Malbec vines have formed an integral part of the signature Vasse Felix Cabernet blend since the first vintage in 1972. Today, these vines remain a key component of Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec. This small-batch wine draws on cuttings from the original vines in the Home Vineyard and a small plot in our most northern Margaret River vineyard.
As the team at Vasse Felix so perfectly put:
“Malbec isn’t the easiest of varieties to grow. In fact, many producers in Bordeaux pulled it out of their vineyards in the 1950s due to frost and disease pressures. Yet, in the wine paradise that is Margaret River, Malbec can survive and reach lean, perfect ripeness.”
The traditional flavours of this Margaret River Malbec is a hint of mulberry and charcuterie, with an additional juiciness through the mid-palate adding a subtle, yet important dimension to our Cabernet.
Cullen Wines and Malbec:
Cullen is another winery that likes to add Malbec to certain wines for a little extra UMPH. But what’s different about this winery, is their approach to winemaking itself.
Cullen Wines is a certified biodynamic, carbon neutral and naturally powered estate, with their philosophy summed up in three simple words; ‘Quality, Integrity and Sustainability’. It is one of the oldest and most awarded family wineries in Wilyabrup, in Western Australia’s famous Margaret River region.
Our go to Malbec blend from this winery has to be their award winning Red Mood. The soils are old, granite and gravelly sandy loam, overlying lateral subsoils. Malbec, Petit Verdot and Merlot are three varieties that are particularly well suited to growing in this area. The Malbec provides the fruit power and colour, the Petit Verdot the length and texture and the Merlot the structure.
Te Awa Wines and Malbec:
Te Awa was the newest member to join the Villa Maria family in 2012 and since then, a lot of changes have been made, including the newest collection under ‘Leftfield’, which focuses on exploration, creativity and imagination when it comes to different wine regions and varieties and some funky labels.
Richard Painter – winemaker at Te Awa Wines – started working at vineyards in Nelson, Central Otago, and Canterbury, before adventuring to Hawke’s Bay in the hunt for fruit from the famous Gimblett Gravels sub-region.
We had a chat with Richard about what makes Malbec so loveable here in the UK:
How would you describe Malbec in one word?
Richard: “Character. Malbec has so many unique attributes, it’s way we love to bottle a single varietal Malbec.”
What are your plans to celebrate International Malbec Day on the 17th of April?
Richard: “For April here in New Zealand, we’re always in the thick of the harvest, making this seasons wines so chances are we’ll celebrate it by being knee deep in grapes, and we’ll go home for a shower and a cold beverage. But I’d like to think that we’d eat a nice bit of New Zealand beef, knocked down with a glass of Malbec.“
How have you adapted to changes during the pandemic?
Richard: “For me I think one of the biggest takeaways is how the simplest pleasures of life can be missed, enjoying a great meal and sharing a great bottle of wine. These things bring us so much enjoyment to life, and I think when you can’t do those things you miss them greatly.”
Can you drink Malbec in the summer, yay or nay?
Richard: “Yes! But pick the right Malbec, pick the one that is light, fresh, and edgy. I’d like to think that our Malbec would fulfill your summer red wine dreams.”
Can you drink Malbec chilled?
Richard: “I absolutely think you can drink Malbec chilled. You’ll really enjoy it, trust me!”
What changes have you seen in this years vintage in comparison to past years?
Richard: “The vintage has been incredibly early here in Hawke’s Bay, we’re actually nearly finished. Take the Leftfield Malbec for example, in previous years we wouldn’t have even picked it by now! It’s just beginning to be pressed off skins, and it’s a beautiful lovely dark colour, so I’m really excited about how this wine looks. Our Malbec is a personal highlight for me in 2021’s vintage. I can’t wait to get this wine into a bottle, but for now it needs to go into the barrel and chill out for a few months.”
A Malbec treat…
If you got this far, then I guess you deserve a treat… tomorrow we’re launching 20% off Malbec wines all weekend long until Monday morning at 8am! If you’re a traditional wine drinker and lean towards an Argentinian Malbec, then now’s the perfect time to taste what the New World has to offer…