This diversity allows us to find notable exponents of each varietal throughout our country. I invite you to take a tour with our beloved Malbec and she presents us with her many faces, which will tell us her story from the hand of her caretakers, the winemakers.
Cuyo and its multi-dimensional Malbec
The Cuyo region (La Rioja, San Juan and Mendoza, according to the definition of Wines of Argentina) represents 95% of the cultivated area for winemaking in Argentina. It is in this area where Malbec tops the list of red varietals and where, due to its diversity, the territory allows us to know the various presentations of this grape. Nevertheless, “It is very difficult to generalize the characteristics that a strain has in a certain place. It must be taken into account that this depends on the microzone, the genetics of the plant, the climate of the season, the work, the irrigation, the vinification and the aging ”, Alert Rogelio Rabino, winemaker at Bodega Kaiken.
Mendoza is the heart of this area, which stands out with a cultivated area of about 150,000 hectares in its five areas: East, North, First Zone, Uco Valley and South. And in each one, Malbec finds its space to express itself, according to what Jeff Mausbach, owner of Manos Negras, Tinto Negro, Bodega Teho and Buscado Vivo o Muerto comments. “We try to show the diversity of Malbec within each area and even within a farm, due to the diversity of its soils. In our winery we make Malbec-based wines from the extreme south of Valle de Uco, in Pareditas, to the north in Gualtallary, and in Luján. Our goal is to express the diversity of Malbec within Mendoza. Each place is different due to its climate, soils and the vision of those who do it ”, says the winemaker.
Land of Malbec
In the traditional First Zone, composed mainly of Lujan de Cuyo and Maipú, we find Malbec as the most cultivated and oldest variety, with vineyards in Agrelo that can exceed 100 years. “The area was developed through Malbec, and thanks to this vineyard, the oldest, the area transcended the rest of the world. It is the first and only area with a Controlled Denomination of Origin in Argentina, which guarantees a protocol and a strict quality standard. The most important thing is the great heterogeneity that these soils have, permeable and that generate a very good condition for the development of this varietal. Malbec in this region develops into wines of intense color, with very good aging capacity. From their first year they are very drinkable, with a marked expression of red fruit and very friendly in terms of their tannic concentration ”, says David Bonomi, winemaker at Bodega Norton.
Considered the land of Malbec, this area 30 km south of the Mendoza capital has “alluvial soils, that is, it is made up of different strata due to the dragging of ancient rivers. The materials of these layers are clay, silt and sand, located on a bed of stone. They are poor soils with respect to organic matter. The altitudes, from 900 to 1000 meters above sea level, with which the solar exposure is moderate. There is a good heliophany that prevents the formation of fungi. The days are hot and the nights cool. All these factors make it possible to obtain berries with moderate growth, slow ripening and a high concentration of polyphenolic compounds and aromas ”, says Alejandra Riofrio, from Bodega Navarro Correas.
In Ugarteche, also in Luján de Cuyo, “This variety has aromas of red and black fruits, such as plums and blackberries, accompanied by aromas such as mint and violets. On the palate, they have soft, silky tannins”, Says Martín Kaiser, winery manager of Bodega Doña Paula.
When we talk about aged vines, permeable soils and cool nights, ideal attributes for Malbec, we refer to Vistalba, where Malbec, when young, “could be described as a wine of an intense red color with violet hues and a fair balance between notes. fruity and floral, enhanced in the mouth thanks to its juicy acidity ”, according to Juan Bruzzone, from Bodega Fabre Montmayou.
In Maipú we find very old Malbec vineyards in two sectors. “On the north bank of the Mendoza river they are somewhat more aromatic, related to red fruits (plum, cherry), and juicier wines are produced; and further to the north of Maipú, the wines have softer tannins, less acidity and are rounder and more harmonious ”, says Omar Panella, winemaker at Bodega López.
The area of Valle de Uco, iconic and so representative of our viticulture today, further broadens the range of qualities of Malbec. “In Gualtallary, Tupungato, Valle de Uco, the maximum expression of the mountain terroir is reflected in Malbec. It is typical to find intense and deep colors due to the marked thermal amplitude. They are textured, intense and complex wines, with an outstanding minerality (stones, chalk, sand) and a marked natural acidity ”, says Manuel González Bals, winemaker at Bodega Andeluna. If we travel to Altamira, the Malbecs will be, according to Facundo Bonamaizón, winemaker at Bodega Chakana, “fresher, more herbal, with a texture and tannins typical of fresh and chalky places. In general more expressive, subtle and elegant. “
In Chacayes, at an altitude of 1250 meters above sea level, “the soil produces a natural balance in the plants. Therefore, all the Malbec that comes out of this area has a natural balance. So they are super concentrated Malbecs with a very high polyphenolic load, a lot of aromatic intensity on the fig side, the mineral notes that the graphite gives, and the high notes: spices and some aromatic herbs. If we move to 1350 meters above sea level, to the Mosquita Muerta Farm, the Malbecs, although they are quite concentrated, are more delicate, more elegant, have a different aromatic palette, fresher red fruit ”, says Clara Roby, winemaker at Los Bodegas Barrels.
In El Cepillo, in San Carlos, “The floral notes appear more marked than in Ugarteche and mineral aromas are added, such as graphite; on the palate, the tannins are a bit more structured. In our Alluvia vineyard, in Gualtallary, black fruits predominate, such as blackberry, and the herbal notes are reminiscent of thyme and jarilla; the tannins in the mouth are firmer, that is to say, more structured “, clarifies Martín Kaiser.
“The wines from the Agrelo area have a great concentration of color and aromas of red fruits, very pleasant to the palate, and in the Uco Valley we can also find in some areas the mineral, spicy character that makes these Malbecs so special. ”, Compares Sebastián Gaya, winemaker at Susana Balbo Wines.
The new valley of Cuyo
Continuing on this route, we move a few kilometers to San Juan, specifically the Pedernal Valley, an area that does not stop growing and offers intense and mineral Malbec. “The unique composition of its geological calcareous soils, 480 million years old, and the extreme climate conditions, are its main differential. By having our vineyard cultivated on the slope of the Sierra de Pedernal, at 1400 meters above sea level. and with a cold continental climate, with average temperatures that do not exceed 28 ° C, we have the possibility of obtaining a new style of Malbec, which allows us to be at the level of the best terroirs in the world ”, comments Paula González, Pyros winemaker . For her part, Clara Roby assures that “they are quite different from Mendoza’s Malbec. Our farm is the highest in the Pedernal Valley, with excellent thermal amplitudes and an absolutely privileged soil, with a calcareous geological origin that gives wonderful things. Malbecs from Pedernal are more oriented to the new concept of modern wines, where freshness stands out more, the profiles are fresher and more fluid ”.
The cold Malbec
This strain is not afraid of the cold. Find in the Patagonian area a space to show its other more delicate facets. “One of the main characteristics here is the good natural acidity of the grapes, which brings freshness to the wines and good storage capacity. It has an intensity of color, soft tannins and an aroma of ripe fruit and spices ”, says Gaspar Rastrilla, from Bodega Aonikenk, in Río Negro.
Furthermore, given the climatic conditions, “it does not require fertilizers, and its health is impeccable; In the two decades of our vineyard, we never had to spray, not even sulfur ”, recalls Mauro Moschini, head of communication at Chacra Moschini. “Our wines are surprising for their high intensity of color and their red-violet nuances. It is a very versatile variety, with which you can make different styles. Malbec from Patagonia is different and has its own personality ”, concludes Leonardo Puppato, Schroeder Family winemaker.
High altitude malbec
In Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán and Catamarca, Malbec speaks to us in a different way. “Malbec in Cafayate has been cultivated for about 200 years; At present it is the main varietal in the area, the wines are very distinguished by their personality, they have intense colors, a lot of aroma of plum, blackberry and blueberries, and always a slight spice, which is the main characteristic that the high climate gives . We have sandy, stony granite soils and rocks, with calcareous sedimentation, which makes for a very diverse palette of structures and wine profiles “, confirms Paco Puga, winemaker at Bodega El Porvenir.
The Calchaquí valley “allows to obtain red wines with a lot of color, aromas and structured in the mouth. These conditions are: altitude (1600 to 3100 masl), high solar irradiation, and thermal amplitude of 20 ° C or more, which favor the synthesis of polyphenols (color and tannins) and the synthesis of aromas “, adds Mariana Páez, winemaker of Finca Quara.
“In Colalao del Valle, Malbec is usually very ‘skinny’,” says Pía Argimon, Brand Ambassador of Bodega Arcas de Tolombón, in Tucumán. “They are usually concentrated wines, full-bodied and with a very marked personality, with intense colors, good structure and ideal for aging. The wines from the north of our country are usually unforgettable wines ”.
In La Rioja, Malbec also has a story to tell. “Our Malbecs are characterized by having a lot of fruit, both in the nose and in the mouth, and in the areas with greater thermal amplitude we have wines with a higher concentration of polyphenols and more present tannins that make these wines support aging in barrels and several years in the bottle. ”, Observes Javier Collovati, winemaker at Bodega Valle de la Puerta.
The future clearly opens the doors for new wines, and why not, for new terroir. Time will tell us which ones will be just fads and which ones are here to stay.
By Marisol de la Fuente
Special for Di-Vino Magazine