The 10th anniversary of Malbec World Day on April 17 allows wineries from Argentina a chance to celebrate their global success with a grape variety they successfully adopted from France 168 years ago. Representing more than half of Argentina’s wine exports, malbec’s role in the industry is so important that it’s been painstakingly researched and studied.
The materials shared to promote this year’s global celebration detail how the first malbec grape vines entered Argentina in 1853 crossing the Andes on the back of mules in the saddlebags of Miguel Amado Pouget, a French agronomist who came to head up the agricultural school in Mendoza. Monuments of Pouget and those legendary mules will surely be erected in years to come.
But the grape’s enduring appeal is certainly laudable, especially in Canada, which represents the third-largest export market for malbec.
A notable strength of Argentina’s wine industry is the consistency across the range for the wineries working with malbec and other classic grape varieties. Strong winemaking is the case across the board, which is why many of the suggested wines this week are value priced brands from Argentina. There are also some rosés and other enjoyable red wines that are recent releases that are worth seeking out.
Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Argentina), $15.95
While its reputation for malbec is well established, Argentina is also a trustworthy source of well-made, value-priced cabernet sauvignon. Made in a fresh style, this suggests an enjoyable mix of dark fruit, cocoa and coffee notes. The finish is firm and drying, which makes this style of red wine that’s best served with a meal. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price, $14.99 in British Columbia ($13.49 until May 1, 2021), $14.99 in Manitoba, $15.99 in Saskatchewan, various prices in Alberta, $18.49 in Nova Scotia.
Alamos Malbec 2019 (Argentina), $15.95
Alamos is the value-priced label produced by the Catena family. The grapes come from high altitude sites in Mendoza, which help to shape wine’s full-bodied and fruity character. Consistently made in a smooth and crowd-pleasing style, this is a solid barbecue red. Drink now to 2023. Some markets are still selling the equally appealing 2018 vintage. Available in Ontario at the above price, $14.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $13.49 in Manitoba, $15.99 in Saskatchewan, $18.49 in Nova Scotia, $18.99 in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
Argento Estate Reserva Organic Malbec 2018 (Argentina), $14.55
This ripe and pleasing style of malbec is produced from grapes grown at organically certified vineyards in Mendoza. It’s a dry red that offers a mix of concentrated plum and blackberry fruit with some floral and earthy accents. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price, $17.49 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta.
Graffigna Reserve Malbec 2019 (Argentina), $13.95
Graffigna celebrated 150 years of winemaking in Argentina last year, which makes it the second oldest winery in the country. This simple red wine presents a mix of berry fruit and herbal notes as part of its medium bodied package. The drying finish suggests it’s a style that works best with food. Drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario at the above price, $14.99 in British Columbia, various price in Alberta, $13.95 in Manitoba, $16.98 in Newfoundland.
Lealtanza Reserva 2015 (Spain), $22.95
Produced from 100-per-cent tempranillo, this complex dry red from Rioja shows a lot of development on the nose, with pronounced cedar, earth and meaty aromas. The palate offers a more youthful character, with tart red fruit flavours and an attractive silky-smooth texture and savoury finish. Vegan friendly. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $35.99 in Nova Scotia.
Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2020 (Canada), $19.95
The new vintage of Vivant is a blend of pinot noir and pinot gris grapes grown by Malivoire to be made into rosé. Pinot gris is a new addition to the mix, but the bright, fruity and refreshingly dry style remains consistent. Vegan friendly. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario and direct through malivoire.com.
Planeta Frappato Vittoria 2018 (Italy), $24.95
This fragrant and fulfilling lighter style red wine is made with the frappato grape in Sicily. This is a benchmark style for the variety and region that is tasty any time of the year but seems even more enjoyable during the warm weather months. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price, $22 in Quebec.
Rémy Ferbras Terre de Mistral Plan de Dieu Côtes-du-Rhône Villages 2017 (France), $16.95
A regional blend of grenache, shiraz and mourvedre, this dry, southern Rhône red delivers an easygoing mix of ripe and cooked fruit with some spicy notes. The rich and sweet character is simple and approachable, making this a solid bistro or barbecue style. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario.
Stel + Mar California Rosé 2019 (United States), $16.95
Toronto-based Stel + Mar has added another California rosé to its portfolio, this one is a creative blend of barbera, petite sirah and syrah from the central valley. It’s made in a dry and easy to appreciate style, with a soft, round texture and decent finish. Drink now. Available in Ontario.
Zuccardi Q Malbec 2019 (Argentina), $19.95
Zuccardi’s Q label continues to impress with this rich and ripe red wine made from estate vineyards in the Uco Valley. The winery’s winemaking style calls for aging in concrete vats and older French oak barrels to deliver more pure fruit flavours into your glass. The mix of juicy berry and plum fruit with floral accents make this easy to appreciate. It has the structure to develop nicely over the next four to six years. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $24.95 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $26.99 in Saskatchewan, $22.99 in Manitoba, $20 in Quebec.
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