The purple Malbec variety grapes which now grow all over the Old and New Worlds had their origins in France, where they are one of the few grape varieties allowed to be used in the highly esteemed blended wines of Bordeaux. However, it is perhaps the New World Malbec wines which have attracted the most attention in recent years, as they thrive in hot southern climates in ways they cannot in their native country, where the damp conditions leave them highly vulnerable to rot. Malbec grapes are renowned for their high tannin content, resulting in full-bodied red wines packed with ripe, plummy flavors and held in their characteristically dark, garnet colored liquid. In many countries, Malbec is still used primarily as a varietal for blending, as it adds a great level of richness and density to other, lighter and thinner varietals. However, single variety Malbec wines have been greatly on the rise in recent years, with some fantastic results and big, juicy flavors marking them out as a great wine for matching with a wide range of foods.
Patagonia is not a region which immediately comes to mind when considering ideal locations for viticulture, which is something which makes Patagonia's annual output of fine wines all the more impressive. Situated in the very south of South America, and lying on both the Argentinian and Chilean sides of the Andean mountains, Patagonia has been settled in by many different nationalities over the centuries, making it a fascinating place for wine production and culture. Perhaps due to the eclectic mix of people who made Patagonia their home, the wines of the region are an interesting mix of many European style wines â€“ far more 'old world' in style than other wines found elsewhere in Argentina or Chile. Whilst red wine varietals such as Pinot Noir and Malbec thrive quite happily in the Patagonian soils, it is the region's white wine grapes; Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer which are most widely admired for the wines they produce.
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.