Mad about Malbec: Sustainability has become increasingly important for winemakers in Argentina
Last Wednesday was Malbec World Day, a celebration that started in Argentina eight years ago. It commemorates the vision and foresight of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, who, following a period of political exile in Chile, returned to his home country to become president of Argentina. Having seen how Chile was taking the wine industry seriously, on April 17, 1853, he got official local government approval for the establishment of the Quinta Normal of Mendoza, a school designed to train local farmers in vine growing.
Pablo Cúneo, the wine maker for Argentinian winery Luigi Bosca, was in Ireland recently, and he was talking about "the noble origin of Malbec". While people associate Malbec with Argentina, and indeed it is the country that made this grape famous, it had been one of the most important grapes in the St Emilion region of Bordeaux in the 18th century, representing 60pc of the grapes that were planted there. However, in the late 1800s, the vines across Europe were ravaged by phylloxera, a microscopic insect that destroyed vines, and after difficulties replanting it and its inability to deal with severe frost, it was replaced by vines that were more suited to the weather conditions. It has thrived in Cahors in France, its native region, where it is known as Cot, but Argentina, where it is planted at the foothills of the 7,000 metre Andes, has proved to be its spiritual home.
Luigi Bosca is a family-owned winery, now managed by the third generation, with seven vineyards across Mendoza, Luján de Cuyo, Maipú and the Uco Valley. Many of the vineyards are at altitude, which bring a freshness to the wines, and with almost double the sunlight of Bordeaux and a long growing season to ripen the grapes, the wines are of a beautiful quality.
Sustainability has become increasingly important in Argentina, and Santa Rita producer Doña Paula is the 10th winery in the country to be certified under the Bodegas de Argentina Sustainability audit. Started by Catena winery in 2011, the focus is on improving social and environmental performance throughout the winemaking process, minimising the impact of operations on the environment and generating shared value with the workers, families and communities of the winery.
Don Tomas, Terroir Selection Malbec, 2017
€10.99, 14pc, from Aldi
The Exquisite Collection Malbec from Aldi is very good, but if you're looking for a step up, this from their Terroir Selection has just a bit more concentration, with savoury liquorice on the nose and ripe red and dark berries on the palate, and a touch of oak.
Luigi Bosca Malbec DOC
€21.95, 14pc, Whelehan's, Deveney's, Redmond's, Martin's, Ardkeen, Cashel Wine Cellar, O'Driscoll's, 1601, O'Keefe's, Joyce's, Galvin's
Expressive with generous flavours of red and dark plums, blueberries, and a touch of spice and smoke from well integrated oak, this is the perfect partner for a nicely charred, medium-rare hunk of steak.
Norton, D.O.C. Luján de Cuyo
€12.95, reduced from €18.95, 14pc, from O'Briens and obrienswine.ie
The grapes for this wine are grown at more than 1,000m above sea level in Luján de Cuyo, bringing a freshness to the blackberry fruit which is spiked with black pepper. A great price for this juicy Malbec.