Malbec Harvest

Harvesting Malbec in Argentina’s Uco Valley (Supplied)

No doubt you’ve already marked your calendar for Malbec World Day, which you surely must know is April 17th. And, in case you haven’t guessed, this celebratory salute to Argentina’s favourite grape was dreamed up by, well , Argentina.

Wracking my brains, I can’t recall any other variety that has its own international (even if not quite statutory!) holiday.

As far as I know, there is no similar salute to Chardonnay, no Burgundian-driven nod to Pinot (complete with endless rounds of la la la la la-la-la… la-la-la-la-la-la’s), no Austrian inspired Global Grüner Day; and the Germans haven’t declared World Riesling Day. At least, not yet. Though, come to think of it, why not?

Malbec’s European claim to fame was as a blending grape in Bordeaux. But Bordelaise didn’t really didn’t lose much sleep when it suffered some pretty serious frost setbacks in the mid 1950s. Although, to this day, it flourishes impressively, in Cahors.

We can thank a forward thinking French agronomist for bringing it to Argentina in the mid-19th century. There Malbec flourished (as did Bonarda). But it wasn’t until the Argentines got excited about the potential for exporting wine, around 1990, that things really began to take shape—often with a helping hand from the likes of Michel Rolland, one of the original French flying winemakers.

Argentina is rightly proud of its Malbec World Day, and with good reason: they’ve turned an “also ran” into a grape that produces great value wines with a variety of styles depending on where it comes, and, increasingly, from what elevation.

Here’s a trio of Argentinian Malbecs that underscores the kind of value it delivers—and make for a suitable salute. For more on Malbec and Argentina in general, see here.

Cuma Organic Malbec 2013 – Cafayate

Easy drinking and highly affordable, juicy, fruit driven wine from beautiful Cafayate in the north, almost on the Bolivian border. Cherry, plum, and some earthy notes. Very good organic value.  Braised meats, pasta or spicy sausage. BCLS $13.99 (Also EW) 89 pts.

Domaine Bousquet Malbec 2013 – Tupungato

More great organic value, this time from high altitude (1200 m.) Tupungato, in Mendoza’s Uco Valley at the foot of the Andes. Up front plum, black fruit and peppery notes, with smooth and elegant tannins, a hint of mocha and spice before a lengthy end. BCLS / EW $15.99 – Also available in a convenient half bottle (375 ml) for $8.99. Stylish packaging too, that belies its bargain price tag. Think barbecued strip loin with sautéed mushrooms. 90 pts.

Famiglia Bianchi Reserve Malbec 2011 -San Rafael

From a cooler part of Mendoza, forward very fruity aromas of plum and black fruit, followed by a luscious, quite full bodied palate with approachable, well integrated tannins and a long finish.  Game meats such as venison, and stews, or strong cheeses. EW / BCLS $19.99  89 pts.


4th annual Malbec World Day is  April 17, with celebrations in 55 cities in 44 countries around the world. Here in BC you can track down over 40 free consumer tastings at different stores:

Everything Wine pours tastes along with Argentine cuisine, 3-6 pm, Fri, Sat April 11th, 12th.

Marquis Wine Cellars, Tastes and bites, 2-5 pm, Saturday April 12th.

Selected BC Liquor Stores, April 11th, 12th free tastings, including Malbec blends.

On the day itself, events feature wines paired with empanadas from Panaderia Latina Bakery, at BCLS 39th & Cambie, 2:30 pm – 6:30 pm; and at Legacy Liquor Store, Vancouver, 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm, while BCLS highlights Malbec through May 5th.