Wine enthusiasts across the globe gathered to celebrate World Malbec Day, a great opportunity for novices and connoisseurs alike to sample some of Argentina’s flagship varietal.
Although Malbec is stunningly popular, few in North America knew anything about the grape just ten years ago but today, Malbec represents a great value for those in search of bold-yet-approachable reds.
World Malbec Day was created by Wines of Argentina to commemorate the day in 1853 (April 17) when President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, an Argentine political leader, asked his government to spend money on the nation’s agriculture industry.
Wine grapes had been growing in Argentina since the 1500s, when Spain colonized the Americas. But the wine industry remained undeveloped. So after lawmakers signed off on Sarmiento’s proposal, Michel Aime Pouget, a well-known French agriculture scientist, was asked to bring over grapevines from France.
Pouget transported many different grapes, but Malbec—a thin-skinned variety that often failed to ripen in France—was the most successful, benefiting tremendously from the hot, dry climate of Argentina’s Mendoza region next to the mighty Andes cordillera.
In the ensuing years, Malbec would have many ups and downs. For most of the 20th century, growers were more interested in quantity than quality, primarily producing jug wine for local consumption. And during Argentina’s economic nightmare of the 1980s, the entire industry almost collapsed.
Fortunately, ambitious producers recognized the importance of exports in the 1990s, so started focusing on quality wine production. Argentina’s wines soon garnered international acclaim, and Malbec’s popularity exploded.
Nowadays North America is showing increasing thirst for Argentine wines. Between 2007 and 2011, shipments of wine from Argentina to the United States more than doubled, from 3.3 million cases to 7.1 million cases. And demand shows little sign of slowing. From 2010 to 2011, according to Nielsen, Malbec sales in the United States increased by a whopping 49%.
Malbec’s rise can be attributed to many factors. But most importantly, as New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov has written “it’s the right sort of wine at the right kind of price.”
Most Malbecs are easily enjoyed. They’re approachable when young, and marked by straightforward flavours that everyone enjoys—like ripe, dark fruit, fresh wild herbs, and sweet spices. Thanks to good acidity, most Malbecs are also exceptionally juicy, so work well with food. Best of all, Malbec is a great value. Plenty of good options are available for less than 20 dollars per bottle.
This is the second year that Malbec World Day was celebrated worldwide dedicated entirely to one of Argentina’s emblematic grapes. The range of events organized to honour Malbec included special activities, tasting, fairs and a number of festivities in different countries extending for over a week.
The first Malbec World Day, celebrated worldwide on April 17 2011, was a resounding success and this year more than 40 Argentine diplomatic representations around the world joined the major effort among which United States, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, Brazil, Poland, Algeria, Vietnam, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece, Australia, Peru, the Philippines, Germany, Denmark, Chile, Venezuela, Finland, Portugal, Spain, Korea, India, the Netherlands, Uruguay, Sweden, Russia, Armenia and Panama.