Peter is one of the many thousands of Malbec fans that have appeared across the world in recent years. In Dublin, where he lives, he often visits different wine stores looking for interesting new labels because he knows a lot about Argentina’s favorite grape. He also likes to wax lyrical about its virtues to other wine lovers.
However, his experience was put to the test when he found an unfamiliar label on the shelves of one of his favorite stores: Argentine White Malbec was a new one to him. When he looked it up on the Internet he found that at least eight different Argentine wineries were making it but there didn’t seem to be any information about the new grape itself.
All the links just told him what he already knew: Malbec is a red variety! So he grabbed the bottle and went up to the store sommelier: “What’s this? It must be some kind of mistake! What is White Malbec? Argentine White Malbec?
Julie, the sommelier, smiled: “Firstly, Malbec is a red variety, but, like all red grapes, you can use it to make whites too and this is one in particular is excellent. Would you like to try it?” Peter agreed, albeit a little suspiciously.
A few minutes later, he left the store with two bottles of Argentine White Malbec with which he was planning to surprise his friends that night. “They’re going to love it, but I won’t tell them what it is until the end of the dinner.”
Argentine White Malbec or how red turned white
Having established a place among the most interesting varieties in the world, today Malbec is demonstrating how versatile it can be, taking on a range of different styles. It’s still very much a red but among its innovations is Argentine White Malbec, a category which now has at least ten labels on the market.
“In 2011, we felt that it was time to put Malbec’s versatility to the test with a new wine,” remembers Andrés Ridois from Colosso Wines.
“Back then, a lot of things were going on with Malbec in terms of region and style, but a white had never been made, so we decided to give it a try. Indomable Blanc de Malbec was a break with tradition that the public accepted immediately and it ended up becoming a classic for our winery and establishing a whole new category as more White Malbecs have appeared in recent years.”
It’s easy to explain in technical terms: these wines are made with Malbec grapes that are harvested early to ensure low alcohol and good natural acidity. “We put them through minimal maceration and press lightly to avoid leaching the color or phenols, then we ferment it in stainless steel,” says Adrián Toledo, the winemaker at Colosso Wines.
A lot of people were surprised that the wineries were willing to put the varietal on the label and even more by its success.
“Our Trivento White Malbec keeps growing in markets like the USA and the UK,” says Maximiliano Ortiz, the oenologist at Trivento, who now produce ten thousand cases (of 9 liters each) a year and expect that number to increase in 2023.
In their case, the wine was conceived during their Winds of Change creative grant program: “In 2018 we held a congress to generate creative ideas,” says Fernanda Bertinatto, who’s in charge of sustainability and social responsibility initiatives at the winery. “It was generally agreed that Malbec is the most representative variety in Argentina but people also wanted to present it in an innovative way.”
And so, an oenological team was assigned to develop the technique of making whites from red grapes with proceeds from the sales going toward more educational grants.
Another winery continuously on the look-out for new innovations and ways to develop Mendoza’s non-traditional grapes is Viña Las Perdices, and they too are part of the Argentine White Malbec wave.
“We launched the Malbec Logia trilogy which features a red made through carbonic maceration, a rosé and a White Malbec inspired by a traditional technique often applied to Pinot Noir: we were looking for a colorless fresh wine with low alcohol but an original identity that delivers fresh red fruit and citrus flavors and good volume for a white. It’s ideal for lean meat, seafood and even salads,” says Fernando Losilla.
Other Argentine White Malbecs available on the market include: Dadá #391 Art White Malbec from Finca Las Moras; Killka White Malbec from Salentein; Misterio White Malbec from Finca Flichman. and Finca Sophenia has recently launched Karma, about which Eugenia Luka says: “we wanted to make a fresh, easy-drinking white for relaxed occasions, which is why it comes with a screw-top.”
Malbec is without doubt a variety that is constantly surprising consumers, not just Peter and Julie, but many, many others enchanted by its character, eager to continue exploring Malbec in all its different incarnations and expressions.