Malbec grapes have been grown for centuries in the Old World, and whilst many wineries had and continue to have great success with these dark and rather demanding grapes, they are famously susceptible to rot and quickly lose their best features should the weather not be as good as they need it to be. As such, it is the New World Malbec wines which have really made this old and respected varietal a household name, and the many single variety bottles we see in our supermarkets and wine stores bearing this grape have been some of the biggest and most pleasing success stories of recent years. However, Malbec is often and was traditionally used as a blending grape, offering its strong tannins and heavy, plummy fruit flavors to milder, mellower wines to boost their character, and many of these blended wines rank amongst the finest in the world. As such, Malbec is a highly versatile grape which has spread across the globe to produce some very different results, each one pleasing, and each one packed with flavor and character.
The wine region of Salta, found at the extreme north of Argentina, has to be one of the most unique regions for viticulture in the world. With an altitude sometimes exceeding three thousand meters above sea level, and lying only twenty four degrees from the equator, this unusual mix of geographical features manages to provide a landscape and a set of terroirs surprisingly ideal for vineyard cultivation. With exceptional Chardonnay, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat grapes growing here to full ripeness each year, it seems likely that Salta will continue to grow as an important New World wine region, whose wines will continue to win awards and accolades worldwide. Indeed, the two key wine making provinces of Salta - Cafayate and Molinos â€“ have increased their production rates by a considerable margin over the past few decades due to increased demand and interest in Argentinian wines.
It is said that the first Argentinian vines were planted in the Mendoza more than four hundred years ago by European settlers, and despite these early wines being used primarily for religious purposes, the fervor for wine making never left the area. Today, Argentina is keen to demonstrate its technological prowess when it comes to vineyard cultivation, by combining traditional methods of irrigation left over from the Huarpes Indians with modern techniques in order to make the dry, arid desert an ideal environment for growing grapes. Indeed, these ancient irrigation channels, dug hundreds of years ago and still in use today, bring mineral-rich melt water from the Andes via the Mendoza river, something which gives the grapes grown in this region some of their character. The primary grape of this and other regions of Argentina is the Malbec, which is highly susceptible to rot in its native France, but which thrives in the dry and hot climate of South America, producing rich and plummy wines which are highly drinkable especially when young.