Hi winelovers! The temperatures have finally begun to drop in the southern hemisphere, the crazy harvest period is over and it’s time to look back over everything I’ve learned since I arrived in Argentina and quietly absorb all the journeys I’ve taken over the past few months.
A little because the days are growing shorter, but also because I always like to review the lessons I’ve learned, I’ve decided to share a few fascinating Malbec facts that caught my eye.
In the month of Malbec, the country’s iconic grape, I’m pretty sure that these fascinating Malbec facts are going to amaze you.
Fascinating Malbec facts
- A prophet far from home. It’s often the case that talented figures needs to travel a fair distance to really come into their own. A very popular example here in Argentina is Lionel Messi. The most famous player in world football had to prove himself in Europe before winning the World Cup with Argentina. In that, you might say that he has something in common with Malbec, a variety everyone thinks of as Argentine but whose origin is Cahors, a viticultural region in the southwest of France. There, in the 14th century, trade in the wine boomed so much with England that the city became a cultural hub. Exactly the same thing is now happening in Mendoza, where Malbec is at the center of a wealth of cultural, tourism and gastronomic attractions pleasing everyone in the same way as one of Messi’s feints.
- From Queens to Tsars, everyone loved Malbec. Like I said above, Malbec is originally from Cahors, France, where in the 12th century Leonor of Aquitaine was a powerful figure. In 1152, she married Edward the Young, the future king of England. Following that union, the queen to be would strengthen the trading relationship between Cahors and the British crown and so Malbec became one of the island’s most aristocratic wines. Isn’t that a fascinating Malbec fact?
Later on, King Henry III would be enchanted by the bottles and describe the grape as the “black wine of Cahors.” The connection with the British nobility would take Malbec to the lands of Tsar Peter the Great, whose daughter, Catherine, would promote its production in Crimea, where it is still grown by the Black Sea.
- The role of Napoléon III. The winegrower Miguel Amado Pouget, the man responsible for bringing Malbec to Argentina in the second half of the 19th century, was a political exile who left France after Napoleon III’s coup in 1851. They have a phrase here, “No hay mal que por bien no venga”, which is more or less the equivalent of “Every cloud has a silver lining,” and that’s certainly true in this case.
- Stepping back for a big leap forward. In the mid-20th century, Malbec vineyards spanned about 50,000 hectares in Argentina but by the 80s and 90s it was in decline. Around 1997, when winegrowers and makers had come to realize the grape’s potential, there were just 10,000 hectares left. By 2002, Malbec was becoming very popular overseas which, coupled with its renewed success locally, saw the number of hectares under vine with the variety rise again to the current figure of 44,387 hectares.
- There is a Malbec Day. Since 2010, every April 17 has been commemorated as Malbec World Day (MWD), a global initiative created by Wines of Argentina whose goal is to raise awareness about Argentine Malbec across the world and celebrate the success of the national wine industry. Celebrated for the first time in 2011, MWD has become a landmark of wine promotion across the globe and is now marked on calendars at home and overseas. Every year, Wines of Argentina runs innovative campaigns and organizes a full range of activities in the main wine markets, which are accompanied by events organized by Argentine institutions overseas and independent initiatives that make Malbec the toast of the globe. Pay attention, there’s bound to be an event near you.
Glass still in hand, and thinking over this wonderful story, which dates back so many centuries, I also remember a phrase I often hear when I visit wineries today: “Malbec’s story is only just beginning.”
It’s true. Winemakers are still writing it, and there’s plenty of potential for more twists in the future.
Tell me which bottle of this mellow grape you’ve chosen to celebrate the day and whether I’ve managed to surprise you with any of my other fascinating Malbec facts. Until next time, cheers!