The emergence of Malbec on the international viticultural scene thanks to the hard work of Argentine wineries restored the allure of a grape that had been out fashion for a couple of centuries, and led to it being planted elsewhere.
But while Malbec vineyards spread across the world, Argentina is working to make its reds ever more precise, exploring all of its terroirs and expanding its range with new styles. Thanks to the grape’s malleability and the ongoing research and experimentation of winemakers and agricultural engineers, there are plenty of new facets of Malbec waiting to be discovered.
Below, we tell you about the different styles of Argentine Malbec that no lover of Argentina’s flagship grape will want to miss out on when they next go to the wine store.
Styles of Argentine Malbec, the latest developments
Organic Malbec. If there’s one single category of Argentine Malbec that’s making waves right now it’s the organic segment. It’s well known that the natural conditions in Argentina facilitate the production of quality grapes without any need to use chemicals in the vineyard and so every year more and more wineries are deciding to get certification to confirm the sustainability of their wines.
“A while ago we took on a commitment to the environment that led us to convert our 80-hectare vineyard at El Cepillo (Uco Valley) into a fully organic one and subsequently obtained biodynamic certification. Today we’re also in process of transitioning a 150 hectare Agrelo vineyard for certification. We want all our vineyards to be certified. We know that the only possible future is through sustainable management of vineyards and the winery,” says Celina Rivas, the winemaker in charge of premium wines at Escorihuela Gascón (Escorihuela Gascón Organic Vineyard has won several honors across the globe).
The list of Malbecs with organic certification is constantly growing but for the moment stand outs include: Artesano Malbec from Argento, El Salvaje Malbec Orgánico from Casa de Uco, Benmarco Sin Límites Malbec Orgánico, Domaine Bousquet Gran Malbec and the exclusive Noemía Malbec from Patagonia.
Malbec Nouveau. Wines made employing carbonic maceration, inspired by the famous Beaujolais Nouveau, aren’t new in Argentina, although ones made with Malbec are. The main objective is to produce thirst-quenching reds, something refreshing and fruity that will go well with meals one would ordinarily pair with whites.
“Malbec responds very well to carbonic maceration which doesn’t just allow us to make aromatic reds you can drink cold, it also delivers low tannins and alcohol content,”’ says Tomás Stahringer, creator of Vinyes Ocults Malbec Maceración Carbónica, one of the most accomplished options alongside Mythic Divine Creations Malbec Nouveau Maceración Carbónica and Marcelo Pelleriti Blend Tinto Fresco.
Natural Malbec. Making wines without added sulfites, using native yeasts and with minimal intervention is becoming increasingly popular after years of experimentation in an effort to produce wines that purely and subtly express their origins as closely as possible.
A lot of producers apply this philosophy to several of their wines but Malbec paved the way. “Working without sulfites using biodynamic methods allowed me to achieve a bare expression of Malbec from Maipú with an exquisite, fruity nose and rich texture and freshness,” says Maricruz Antolin, one of the pioneers of the style following the launch of her Krontiras Malbec Natural in 2018.
Several other Argentine Malbecs made with minimal intervention also make for interesting drinking such as Le Petit Voyage by the French winemakers Quentin Pommier and Thibault Lepoutre and Kung Fu Malbec by Matías Riccitelli.
Malbec + Cabernet Franc. One of the reasons Cabernet Franc has grown in popularity in Argentina is that when blended with Malbec it adds freshness and energy.
As winemakers experimented, they were increasingly impressed by the combination of Cabernet Franc with Malbec, resulting in reds that have proved to be very popular among consumers; a new category in which Malbec is still the protagonist to be enjoyed in labels such as Norton Lote Negro from Bodega Norton, among others.
‘Without a doubt, one of the varieties that best complements and enhances Malbec is Cabernet Franc. It lends aromatic intensity and freshness, helping to lighten Malbec with its finer tannins without reducing the grip,” says David Bonomi at Bodega Norton.
Other essential versions include Trapiche Iscay Malbec-Cabernet Franc, Rompecabezas Blend from Finca Beth and Proyecto Hermanas Malbec-Cabernet Franc from Bodega Lagarde.
Amphora Malbec. The quest to achieving pure, precise expressions with Malbec has led oenologists to experiment with various different techniques and recipients. On this path, amphorae became an ideal tool as they don’t imbue the wine with any aroma or flavor but also allow it to breathe, resulting in a gradual oxygenation that defines the character and textures.
“We want to paint the purest possible picture of Gualtallary and present wines different to what you find elsewhere in the area, with an exceptionally pristine profile and very interesting textures where the vibrant acidity combines with oxidative traces to deliver something distinct and attractive”, says Eugenia Luka who, together with Matías Michelini, makes Ello Malbec.
Meanwhile, Alejandro Vigil created La Marchigiana Malbec Vino Ancestral, which is fermented in Qvevri amphorae in the Georgian style and Sebastián Zuccardi makes a skinny but pure Malbec he calls The Amphora Project.
Biodynamic Malbecs. The teachings of Rudolf Steiner have been adopted at many wineries and vineyards in Argentina from the north right down through to Patagonia and Malbec is of course the best variety with which taste the difference it makes.
Wineries both small and large are applying dynamic mixtures to their vines and carrying out their work in the vineyard in accordance with the biodynamic calendar.
“Biodynamic agriculture helps to ensure a healthy habitat in the vineyard, preserving and nourishing the balance and harmony of the fruit,” says Joanna Foster who, together with her husband Ernesto Catena, makes Stella Crinita Malbec, a biodynamic red that is paving the way alongside Alpamanta Natal, Nuna Malbec de Chakana and Krontiras Family Selection Malbec.