You drink an unusual red wine, you read the back label to learn what it is and you’re told that it’s made from Pressac, Prunelat or Quercy. Would you be any the wiser?
If it was made from Cot you might possibly have an idea.
These grape varieties, from the regions of Saint Emillion, Gironde, Charente and, of course, Cahors, are the local names of the better known Malbec. You can discover even more synonyms in the excellent and essential Wine Grapes book.
However it does appear that Argentina has become the spiritual home of Malbec, where it flourishes well, where a range of styles are produced and where there is a dedication to quality.
This year will be the third year of the international celebration of this voluptuous variety. Malbec World Day is celebrated on April 17, to commemorate the day when Argentinian president, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, officially made his mission to transform Argentina’s wine industry. On that day, back in 1853, he tasked Michel Aimé Pouget, a French soil expert, to bring over new vines. Amongst his selection, was Malbec, which has become Argentina’s most known varietal.
Phil Crozier, Gaucho Wine Director
Each year there are many celebrations throughout the world, not only on Malbec day itself but also during the week.
Last month I was invited to attend a lunch hosted by Phil Crozier, the charmingly disheveled Wine Director of Gaucho restaurants, where he introduced us to the five Malbecs that will available by the glass during the week-long celebrations at 14 Gaucho restaurants throughout England.
The table was laid in the Cavas de Gaucho, the wine shop and private dining room of their Piccadilly restaurant on, appropriately named, Swallow Street in the heart of London.
We tasted the wines as Phil told us all about them, sharing his passionate enthusiasm for Argentina, its wines and especially its Malbecs.
Gaucho’s wine list is the largest Argentine wine list in the world outside of Argentina, and also boasts the greatest Malbec collection outside of South America. 70 different Malbec from Argentina’s unique terroirs that vary greatly in altitude and latitude are featured on Gaucho’s list of over 200 wines.
Then came the opportunity to try the wines with food. After the delicious ceviche first course, we were assailed by an array of steaks! And what a selection of good Argentinean beef.
There weren’t only chips but yummy Humita Salteño – roasted pumpkin and sweetcorn served in a corn husk – served with thesteaks.
Now the Malbecs really started to sing, complementing the beef magnificently.
Here are three of them:
Colome de Terruno Gran Altura Malbec 2011
Deep dark ruby, purple rim. Big black fruits, figgy, damask rose. Dry, robust tannins, big juicy fruit. Beetrooty – a vegetable which is also great with this wine!
Unoaked, from some of the highest vineyards in the world.
Susana Balbo Mandala Malbec Vista Flores 2011
Deep ruby purple rim. Juicy creamy red berries, chocolate, spice, rich, long. Great with steak and dark chocolate.
Great winemaker Susana Balbo was commissioned to make a series of wines – one of them is from a micro-region in the heart of the Uco Valley, Mendoza.
Vina Patricia Malbec, Lunlunta 2010
Deep ruby. Meaty berries juicy rich, dry fruity tannins, spice developing. Long and rich in the mouth – great finish.
Made in Gaucho’s own vineyard on Lunlunta, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, this wine is the twinkle in Phil’s eye!
If you want to share in the fun of World Malbec Day, do think of going to Gaucho. On the day itself, April 17th, you can taste all 40 Malbecs on the Gaucho list and see a little piece of their own Malbec vineyard at Cavas de Gaucho, Piccadilly!
Visit any of their restaurants during the week where the five Malbecs are available by the glass or choose one of many others on their list.
Or you can seek out a Malbec, be it from Argentina, Cahors or elsewhere in the world and raise a glass to Domingo Sarmiente who welcomed this noble variety to Argentina!
Phil Crozier tells us about Malbec at the Gaucho.