Malbec originates in South West France, particularly around Cahors (where it is called Cot or Auxerrois), but is also found occasionally in the wines of Bordeaux; eg in the wines of Cotes-de-Bourg and Blaye. Cahors wines are still made from the grape and they can be delicious (if occasionally a little rustic), but it is to Argentina that we turn to for Malbe these days — and rightly so given the delicious wines it produces at all price levels.
Malbec was first planted in Argentina in 1853 and in the hands of Italian and French immigrants, and thanks to the sunny climate, it soon thrived. This is a rather thin skinned grape but it can produce wines of intense colour and with an aromatic richness that I find hard to resist.
For white grapes in Argentina you will find some Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grown at altitude (in the foothills of the Andes), but the most interesting white grape in the country has to be Torrontes.
Torrontes wines are intensely fragrant and floral not unlike Gewurztraminer or Muscat but with enough acidity to make them pair well with food. DNA analysis has shown that Torrontes is a crossing of Muscat Alexandria and Mission but unrelated to the Torrontes found in Galicia.
Argentinian wines are only around 1% of the Irish market (Chile has 22%), but the sector is growing and is a source of some good wines, particularly in the €12-18 bracket, but also as a source of inexpensive table wines. Some other names to watch out for include the following: Luigi Bosca (especially his single estate Malbec), Catena, Masi, O. Fournier, Salentin and Trapiche.
The Ballymaloe Literary Festival runs next weekend with a number of wine related events — Booking on 021-4645777 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dona Paula Estate Malbec 2011 — €10-€14.99
Stockists: SuperValu, Tesco
On offer in SuperValu at €10 (plus the chardonnay and cabernet) from April 28 in SuperValu’s Steak and Wine sale. Dark purple, almost black in colour, smoky dark fruit nose, damsons and plums — ripe sweet and fleshy on the palate with a herbal edge and blackcurrant finish.
Michel Torino Coleccion Malbec 2012 — €9.99-10.99
Stockists: Cork: Matsons, O’Sullivans, J O’Driscolls; Ardkeen Waterford, Hole in the Wall, D7, La Touche, Greystones
Deep dark purple colour, black fruit aromas with tar and smoke touches. Ripe dark fruits follow-through on the palate with a soft plummy centre and a finish of sweet blackcurrant fruits not unlike black Winegums. Rich enough to drink on its own or with some high cocoa-solids dark chocolate.
Dona Paula Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc 2012 — €9.50-10.99
Stockists: Dunnes, SuperValu, Independents
On offer in Dunnes this week for €9.50. Classic modern cool fermented sauv blanc with a very aromatic aroma of pine, lime and grapefruit. Very dry (almost bitter in fact) with a lot of bright acidity. This will be at its best on a hot day or failing that, indoors with an oven-baked Milleens cheese fondue.
Tesco Finest Torrontes 2011 — €14.59
Made for Tesco by O. Fournier in Cafayate, this is a really good example of what I love about Torrontes. Intensely floral with rose petals and white peaches on the nose, lemony-peach flavours on the palate and a zing of acidity to refresh the palate on the finish.
Callia Reservado Torrontes 2012 — €14.99
Stockists: Karwig Wines Cork, World Wide Wines Waterford, Ivans Limerick, Drink Store Dublin
From San Juan province to the north of Mendoza. Nicely fragrant with aromas of boiled sweets, pears and white flowers, a weighty middle palate and good refreshing acidity. Serve with some mussels, goat’s cheese or drink on its own.
Callia Reservado Malbec 2012 — €14.99
Stockists: Karwig Wines, Cork, World Wide Wines, Waterford, Ivans Limerick, Drink Store, Dublin
Dark purple colour, ripe sweet fruit with cherries, spices and smoky earthy overtones. Ripe fruit on the palate with more plums and cherries and a soft finish. A wine this rich needs robust flavours such as barbecued steak or a beef and chorizo stew.