The Vines of Mendoza

The Chronicle Wine Selections Argentine Malbec


Friday, January 2, 2009


Malbec, one of the six red Bordeaux grape varieties, has come into its own in Argentina. It is usually used as a blending grape, except in Argentina and the Cahors region in southern France, where it is vinified as a stand-alone varietal. The grape, which now has 22 recognized clones in Argentina, came by way of Cahors. The Argentine clones produce smaller clusters with thinner skins resulting in sweeter tannins than that of Cahors fruit.

Between 1990 and 2006, Argentina's Malbec plantings increased 133 percent. Today, Mendoza - Argentina's most renowned winegrowing district - leads the way with 83 percent of the country's Malbec vineyards.

Argentine Malbec, with its rich, dark fruit and relatively soft tannins, is sharing the stage with New World Merlot as an accessible, easy-to-taste wine, though there are many "serious" Malbecs with complexity and structure to age. Some of those wines are being produced by renowned winemakers - California's Paul Hobbs and Bordeaux's Michel Rolland - who are consulting and making wine alongside the Chilean wine giant Montes.

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