World Malbec Day is just as it sounds… a day to celebrate and appreciate Malbec, the plum filled, full-bodied red wine.
Beginning in 2011, Wines of Argentina established April 17th as the official day. While grown around the world, Argentina completely transformed their wine industry by planting and focussing on quality Malbec in Mendoza.
Some of the best Malbecs of the world are still grown in Argentina and North America remains one of the most appreciative markets consuming a fair amount of Argentinian Malbec exports.
35% of the hectares planted in Argentina are now Malbec and approximately 50% of the wine is exported.
Malbec is a bright purple, thick-skinned grape, contributing to the beautiful and luscious violet colour in the glass. Malbec was grown in France and was once notably grown as one of the six permitted red varietals for Bordeaux blends.
Malbec needs more heat and sun to ripen than Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon need. With the heat units in Argentina as well as the altitude (which Malbec seems to love) the grapes can hang, ripen and then rest at night, resulting in an ideal growing condition for quality Malbec wine.
For this reason, plantings are decreasing in France, but have continued to increase in Argentina. Argentina now considers Malbec their “National Varietal” contributing to their identity.
The Malbec grapes grown in Argentina differ from the grapes grown in France, despite the fact that the cuttings originated from France when they were brought to Argentina to be planted.
The vines in Argentina have clusters that are smaller, brighter and quite snug together. This is speculated to have occurred as plantings with exact genetic makeup may have been wiped out in France from natural challenges and the phylloxera devastation.
Malbec can also take on many roles and identities. With medium skin tannins and the natural, bright fruit character, Malbec can be fruity with juicy tannin or full bodied with earth, ripe black fruit, and oak spice.
Below are a few of my Argentinian Malbec suggestions and my favourite local food pairings.
Top Malbec Picks
Light & Cheerful
Pascual Toso Estate Bottled Malbec is one of the easiest drinking expressions of Malbec for an unbeatable price of $13.95 at the LCBO.
Bright purple in colour with fresh violets, blackberries and plum on the nose. The fruit follows through to the easy, but juicy palate. For this price, you get great value and a red wine that is guaranteed to please the crowd.
Medium & Fruity
2012 Finca La Escuela El Limo Malbec is one of my favourite Malbecs available in our market right now. With incredible value for only $22.95 at the LCBO, this wine is the perfect in-between as it is fresh and fruity, but the silky and present tannins bring structure and finish.
The fresh plum, black cherry, spice and purple floral notes follow through from the nose to the palate.
Full & Complex
2012 Versado Reserva Ancient Malbec is produced by Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble. Ann Sperling is also the owner/winemaker of Sperling Vineyards in Kelowna and the winemaker of Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara.
This wine is available for $59.95 at the LCBO.
While I have a work connection to this wine, what makes it really special beyond its outstanding quality is that Ann and Peter are Canadian Winemakers with a home, winery and vineyard in Mendoza where they produce wine because of their immense belief in the region and the potential for exceptional wine.
Tony Aspler describes this wine as “dense ruby colour; spicy, floral, blackberry nose with vanilla and cedar notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, ripe… with a silky mouth-feel finishing firmly with a chocolate note.”
Argentinian Food Pairings
Also known in Argentina as Parrillada, this local barbecue dish is a must have with Malbec. Salted, spiced or simply finished with local Chimichurri and made of a range of meats from sausage, beef, pork or lamb.
You can find a whole pig roasting over the fire with the perfect, charred barbeque flavours accenting the fruit, cedar wood and spice in the wines.
My favourite Asado is lamb with full and complex Argentinian Malbec.
While not exclusively Argentinean, Empanadas are a popular cuisine widely loved for a good reason. The golden pastry is filled with a mixture of stuffing that can include quince jam, sweet potato, sweet dulce de leche or regular potato and protein such as pork.
Empanadas can be baked or deep fried until golden brown and flaky. For pairing with Malbec, try a savoury Empanada stuffed with pork and red cabbage or ground beef, cheese and vegetables with a light to medium bodied and fresh expression of the grape.