Malbecs from Down Under: shaking up World Malbec Day

New Zealand Malbec, Australian Malbec, and more…

World Malbec Day may have been and gone. BUT, as with all good grapes, we feel they deserve to be celebrated all year round.

However, Die-hard SC customers will probably have noticed that we don’t have many 100% Malbecs on our list. It’s not that the New World doesn’t produce it: we mean – just look at Argentina. You can hardly move for the swathes of Mendozan Malbec on the market.

So why isn’t there more Antipodean Malbec?

Malbec grapes need lots of sunlight and heat to grow. So far, so good. But the vine can be a bit of a drama queen when it comes to growing conditions. Frost, pests, cool temperatures and wet weather can all result in it throwing its metaphorical toys out of the pram – and not producing many grapes at all.

It’s a bit of a risk for growers. And, in the end, wineries in New Zealand and Australia just prefer to focus on what they know better, and what sells: Chardonnay, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon. After all – if you’re shopping for Malbec, chances are you’ll opt for a big Argentinian bottle instead, not an Antipodean Malbec.

That, of course, does mean you’re missing out. There may not be many of them, but those that do exist are FAB. Antipodean Malbec is becoming especially important in blends, too: in many regions, it’s helping producers craft red blends that can rival the best of Bordeaux.

Intrigued? Good. Time to meet some of our favourites, we think.

Australian Malbec

Malbec when produced in warm climates – which most of Australia has – produces a real fruit bomb of a wine. It’ll be full bodied, and rich in black fruit. It was relegated mainly to the role of ‘blending grape’, as winemakers focused instead on the much-more-popular Shiraz.

But, give it some cooler night temperatures and a bit of altitude, and a whole other layer of complexity emerges. Think violets, aromas, cherries, and balanced acidity. One region that can offer it this is Margaret River, often dubbed the ‘Burgundy of Australia’. It’s a little cooler and wetter than the rest of the country, and produces a huge amount of premium wines. Malbec really shines here – more so than Shiraz, which isn’t so suited to its maritime climate.

Vasse Felix’s vineyards are some of the oldest in Margaret River

Vasse Felix

Vasse Felix were first to set up in Margaret River. Cream of the crop is their Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon (£104.00), which has 17% Malbec in the blend. It’s everything you could want from a wine: graceful, sophisticated, delicate red berries, savoury at the core and with the distinctive violet aromas and plush body of really good Malbec.

Winemaker Vanya Cullen is a big fan of Malbec, using it in many of her red blends

Cullen

Cullen has a decades-old history with Malbec. Winemaker Vanya Cullen uses it in many a blend, often pairing it with Petit Verdot which adds acidity to an otherwise dense wine. We’d recommend their Mangan Vineyard East Block (£36.00) for a sumptuously dark, chocolate and blueberry filled Malbec. Or, if you’re looking for something a little lighter, try their Red Moon (£27.50) – some Merlot adds extra juiciness to a wonderfully fruity red. 

New Zealand Malbecs

Although much of New Zealand’s South Island is too cold for Malbec to thrive, pockets across the country (and the North Island in particular) can produce excellent wines. Areas like Hawke’s Bay – in particular, the famed Gimblett Gravels region – are smashing it with their deep, brooding and intense Malbecs. 

A rare 100% Malbec comes from Leftfield, in Gimblett Gravels

Leftfield Malbec

Leftfield, located in Gimblett Gravels, make a hard-to-find but easy-to-love 100% Malbec (£17.50). Rich in blackberry, liquorice, and dark chocolate flavours, it’s a hell of a wine – and picks up all the awards to prove it, too. 

Millton Vineyards, in Gisborne, blend their Malbec with Syrah and Viognier

Millton Vineyards

James Millton of Millton Vineyards has never been one to shy away from a challenge. So, he was more than up for the task of growing Malbec successfully in Gisborne, known for its uneven rainfall and wet winters. Their Crazy by Nature Red Blend (£24.50) sees Malbec blended with Syrah and Viognier, to create a leather, black peppers, spice and mint chocolate wine with real warmth and personality.

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