The wonderful world of Malbec wines

The Malbec variety, originally popular in Bordeaux but then of little importance, is still the most important grape variety in the Cahors appellation. But she celebrates her greatest successes in Argentina, where she plays the undisputed ruler in the production of reputable red wines in almost all parts of the country. It is cultivated on more than 40,000 hectares of vineyards and finds ideal conditions, especially in the Mendoza region.

In Bordeaux , it was one of the top 5 red varieties for a long time, and it was also popular for a long time alongside Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. However, the susceptibility to late frosts ensured that the acreage dwindled continuously in the 1950s to the point of insignificance. But climate change is now ensuring that Bordeaux winegrowers are planting more Malbec again, with great success. There are now promising single-varietal wines. The renaissance has begun.

Also Read: The Best Malbec Wines To Drink This Year

On the other hand, in the Cahors appellation , i.e. in the south-west of France, it still plays the leading role. There it is also called Cot and thrives on the calcareous soils of the plateau or the terraced valley slopes of the Lot river. The red wines of the appellation must contain at least 70% Malbec; Tannat or Merlot are also permitted. The best wines from Cahors are tannic and intense, gripping, demanding and of great longevity.

But in no other country are such great wines made from Malbec as in Argentina. The thick-skinned variety finds ideal site conditions there. The dry, warm – but not hot – climate with more than 300 days of sunshine a year allows the berries to ripen to perfection, so that the tannins no longer taste bulky or grassy, ​​but form the backbone of the wines when ripe and perfectly integrated.

The Andes, which are up to 6,000 meters high and run from north to south and form the border between Chile and Argentina, act like a rain barrier. The damp westerly winds rain down on the Chilean side, the now dry air is warmed up by the foehn effect and brings sunny and low-precipitation weather to the Argentine side. Nevertheless, there is enough meltwater from the Andes for irrigation. At altitudes between 600 and 1,200 meters above sea level, the province of Mendoza has established itself as the core area of ​​Argentine viticulture.

Foothills of the Andes

The vineyards of Domaine Bousquet are around 1,000 meters above sea level at the foot of the Andes

At this altitude, the UV radiation in the southern hemisphere is particularly intense, which in turn means that the berries protect themselves against this UV radiation by storing more tanning and coloring agents. Therefore, the Malbec is one of the thickest-skinned varieties of all, the coloring and tanning agent content is extremely high. Since you can wait long enough in the dry autumn until the tannins are fully mature, but at the same time the day and night temperatures have a large amplitude, the acidity remains stable for a long time. This is how the Malbec produces full-bodied, full-bodied and characterful wines full of excitement, sufficient freshness and great longevity.

When Frenchman Jean Bousquet, third-generation winemaker’s son, traveled to Argentina for vacation in 1990, it changed his life. Fascinated by the country and its people, he wanted to set foot there and make his own wine. In the Uco Valley – about 100 kilometers south of Mendoza – he found sandy soil far above the wineries that were already established there and bought land. “You’re making the biggest mistake of your life,” said the broker when signing the purchase contract, because there have never been vines here before.

The locals thought he was crazy. The family sold their wineries in Bordeaux and within a few years built up a top winery. Thanks to the altitude of over 1,200 meters and the sandy soil, organic farming is easy: With more than 300 days of sunshine a year and constantly fresh air from the mountains, there are hardly any pathogens, fungus pressure or problems with rot: things that every European winemaker has to bother with. The natural acidity is retained in the wine, even when harvested later, and the berries protect themselves against high UV radiation with a thick skin. The best conditions for organic viticulture and great wines.

Today, Jean Bousquet’s daughter Anne and her husband Labid Al Ameri run the 220-hectare exemplary winery, which sets new standards in terms of the quality of Argentinean organic wines. The first organic certification took place in 2005, and in 2014 the winery received fair trade recognition from IMO. From zero to hero: Today, Domaine Bousquet is the most awarded organic winery on earth!

The world of Bousquet wines is best explored with the Malbec 2020 : This “simplest” version of Bousquet is deep purple, almost black in colour. With a spicy, greasy bouquet and lots of blackberry fruit, black currants and notes of tar. On the palate it tastes powerful of plum jam and dark chocolate, with soft and fine tannins. A wine with a sensational price/pleasure ratio!

As is usual in South America, Reserva wines mature in barrique barrels. At Bousquet, the Reserve Malbec remains in small French oak casks for a minimum of 10 months to a year. Enormously dense, impenetrable, deep dark colour. Meaty and spicy aromas on the nose, with delicate toasted notes. A lot of the finest tannin gives it the opportunity to mature for 8 to 10 years. But the opulent fruit and its wonderfully balanced power make it a real treat today.

The Malbec grape variety can produce beautiful, simple wines for everyday enjoyment, but also first-class, complex wines like this Grande Réserve ! The late harvested grapes are selected, ie only the best and healthiest berries may be processed for the top wine. The wine matures in French oak barriques. Powerful bouquet of dark berries, leather, spice and tobacco with subtle notes of vanilla. An almost unbelievable opulence on the palate, which is supported by perfect tannins. Full-bodied, powerful and yet fine and elegant: simply a great wine!