There was a time not too long ago when Malbec wasn’t as widely known as today, even though it was widely cultivated. In France, it used to go, and still does in some regions, by the name of Côt, and it was at one point a prevalent variety taking significant vineyard space from Bordeaux to Cahors, Malbec’s current European stronghold. In the mid-1900s, however, the wine world started to fall out of love with Malbec for various reasons, and fashionable varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon began to get all the attention.
Luckily, Malbec did find a new home in Argentina, and the array has since become a worldwide phenomenon. Malbec is one of the most successful red grape varieties of the 21st century, and Argentina is almost single-handedly responsible for its success.
The arid desert-like climate (only 220 mm/year vs. Bordeaux 851 mm/year) of Mendoza is surprisingly well-suited for the cultivation of Malbec. Thanks to the Andes, Mendoza has proved to be a versatile playing field for local winemakers. Planting vineyards in higher altitudes means hot days and cold nights, which gives the grapes much-desired freshness.
The slopes of the Andes also provide a wide array of soils from colluvial to fluvial that, combined with different altitudes, provide an entirely different outcome. So, saying all Malbec are the same is not just silly, it’s also just plain wrong. Salta, northern Argentina, has some of the highest commercial vineyards in the world, some that go above 2,000 meters above sea level. For every 100-150 meters in altitude, the temperature drops by 1°C. However, Argentina is not just about altitude but latitude as well. There are winery projects as far south as Chubut in Patagonia.
It gets relatively cold and very windy down there, making vine cultivation an extreme sport, but hey, you got to risk it for the biscuit. Each of these small pockets has its unique feature, which makes Argentine Malbec versatile and incredibly delicious. Malbec is known to produce inky, rich red wines with a smooth velvety structure. If you like full-bodied red wines, chances are Malbec is one of your go-to varieties. I prefer my Malbec slightly chilled, not cold, to get the variety’s beautiful dark fruit to pop.
But that’s just me. What works for you, well, you have to find that out yourself. Here is a list of tasty Malbecs for you to try.
Zuccardi - Concreto Malbec
Valle de Uco, a sub-region of Mendoza, is the hottest cool region in Argentina at the moment. Everybody is talking about it.
Not only is it ridiculously beautiful, but its high elevation vineyards produce wines that fit the global freshness trend. Zuccardi is one of the more prominent players in Valle de Uco. This wine was fermented in concrete tanks, hence the name, which they have lots at Zuccardi’s James Bond villain’s secret lair-esque winery.
This wine is full of rich blackberry, violet, herbal notes, and dense juicy texture balanced with savory tannins.
Traslapiedra - Malbec de Paraje Altamira
When a band of young wine-loving musicians gets their hands dirty, the result is as funky as expected.
This wine is not your typical Malbec because you can easily drink a bottle of this, and still want more. Bright, vibrant raspberry and black cherry notes, thirst-quenching finish. Quirky little Malbec from Paraje Altamira, which manages to show a completely different side of Malbec.
El Esteco - Chañar Punco
Ok, you got me. This isn’t a pure Malbec but nevertheless worthy of mention.
This wine comes from the Calchaquí Valley known for its high-elevation vineyards. This particular wine comes from 2,000 meters above sea level and it’s a blend of 65% Malbec and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Intense ripe fruit, spicy licorice, and dark chocolate followed by a zippy finish. A tasty example of wines from record-breaking altitudes.
Bodega Noemia - Noemia Malbec
Patagonia is beautiful and oh, so windy. It’s also massive.
The vineyards of Rio Negro (once known as the South American Nile) has little to do with the stereotypical Patagonia you see on tourist brochures. However, what this region lacks in penguins and glaciers, it makes up in extraordinary wine. Noemia Malbec is a wine of structure and great balance with plenty of rich, savory fruit with a tangy finish. One of Argentina’s finest.