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Column: Enjoying Malbec wine this year

Variations of Malbec in B.C.

Malbec is a grape varietal that many people associate with Argentinean wines. But Malbec was originally grown extensively in France. Many people are surprised to learn that historically, Malbec was grown in Bordeaux. However, because the Malbec grape is very susceptible to diseases and climate changes, 75% of the Malbec vines in Bordeaux were destroyed in 1956 by frost. After that, winemakers preferred to plant more robust grape varietals in Bordeaux like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Still, Malbec is grown today in a southwest region of France called Cahors.

Malbec was first brought over to Argentina from France in the mid-19th century. Malbec grows particularly well in the Mendoza region of Argentina. This region’s hot and dry climate is perfect for the Malbec grape to thrive. With global warming, the importance of the Malbec grape will continue and we may even see a resurgence of this grape in different regions in France. There are many innovative winemakers in Argentina who are experimenting with growing the Malbec grape at higher altitudes. Malbec grown at higher altitudes benefits from cooler nights, which produces wines with more acidity and vibrancy of flavour.

In the 1850s, the President of Argentina wanted to kickstart the growth of the Argentinean wine industry. So he created Malbec World Day, which is celebrated throughout the world each year on April 17. Malbec has been grown in Argentina since then but Malbec did not become synonymous with Argentina until recent times. Malbec is also grown in Chile and the US but it is the most predominant grape varietal in Argentina.

Malbec grapes produce a dark, almost purplish wine. Malbec wines have moderate tannins and body with dark fruit flavours. They will sometimes even have a tobacco or charcoal aroma and taste. They are naturally low in acidity which is why the increase in acidity with Malbec grapes grown at high altitude is appreciated by wine lovers. I love pairing Malbecs with barbeque food, and particularly with steaks or lamb on the grill.

We are fortunate in B.C. to have a very good selection of Malbec wines. The wonderful thing about Malbecs is that they do not have to be expensive to be tasty. Some of my favourite buys are the Domaine Bousquet Malbec and Malbec Reserve labels, priced at $16.49 and $20.99 respectively. You can see my video review of these wine here. If your budget allows you to spend a bit more money, try a wine made by Sebastian Zuccardi, who is regarded as one the cutting edge innovators for how the Malbec grape is grown. You can see a review of his premium Familia Zuccardi wine named after his father Jose here.

Finally, if you want to try a top-shelf Malbec from Argentina, look for the Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino. This wine has one of most intricate labels I have seen, which pays tribute to the history of the Malbec grape in France and Argentina. Catena Zapata is one of the leading wineries in Argentina and the Argentino wine is made from grapes grown from old vines from the wineries top vineyards. See my review of this wine by clicking here.

Until next time, happy drinking!