Next Friday, April 17th, is World Malbec Day and, believe me, joining in the celebrations couldn’t be simpler. All you need is a couple of bottles of quality Argentinian Malbec and some juicy steaks. To help you choose the former, I’ve written a few words about a couple of my favourite Malbec producers and, with nearly a week to go, there’s lots of time to get some prime steak from the butcher. So, really, with everything in hand, all that needs to be said is – Happy Malbec Day!
Altos Las Hormigas
From its estate in Luján de Cuyo, near Mendoza, the Altos Las Hormigas winery has, in the last 20 years, established its reputation of one of Argentina’s top five producers of Malbec. The estate is owned by roving Italian wine consultant, Alberto Antonini, and fellow Tuscan, Antonio Moreschalchi. In 1995, on their first ever trip to the region, the pair were so bowled over by the vineyards that they, almost instantly, set about persuading friends and investors to bankroll a purchase of the estate. Happily, they proved to be smooth talkers and the estate now covers 216 hectares, of which 40 were planted between 1996 and 1999.
The grapes for the Altos Las Hormigas Clasico are grown at high altitude – 900 -1,000m above sea level – in specially selected vineyards in Medrano, Barrancas and Lulunta. Here, the climate of hot days and cool nights greatly assists the aromatic development of the grapes and the area’s deep, fresh sandy loam soil, handily, prevents the grapes from ripening too early.
The Clasico is an elegant Malbec with a delicate bouquet of redcurrant, minty blackberry leaves and smoky undertones. The palate is light bodied, silky with very delicate tannins and is richly imbued with favours of plum, sweet spice, dried herbs and a subtle smoky finish.
The flagship wine of the Altos Las Hormigas estate is the Altos Las Hormigas Valle de Uco Malbec Reserva 2009. The grapes for this wine are all grown in the prized vineyards of the Uco Valley and, come harvest time, all of the precious grapes are picked by hand before undergoing a 20 day fermentation process and 18 months ageing in French oak barrels
The Reserva has an enticing nose of flowers, ripe red and black fruits and subtle mineral notes. The palate is creamy with huge depth, softness and fresh, juicy red fruit flavours intermingled with floral and spicy notes.
After visiting Argentina in 1989, trail-blazing Californian winemaker, Paul Hobbs, became deeply aware of the unique potential of Argentine Malbec and determined that, one day, he would make his own wine in the vineyards surrounding Mendoza. After meeting two kindred spirits, Andrea Marchiori and Luis Barraud, they founded Viña Cobos in 1997 and since then there has been no looking back.
The Viña Cobos Felino Malbec 2013 is made using grapes from the, previously mentioned, Uco Valley and grapes from the, equally well regarded, Luján de Cuyo region. The wine ages for 9 months in French and American oak barrels and is very expressive on the nose, displaying alluring notes of violet flowers and shortbread. On the palate, it carries vibrant flavours of blueberry, boysenberry and black cherry and it finishes with gamey, sweet spice notes.
The top wine of the Viña Cobos estate is the Viña Cobos Bramare Malbec, Marchiori Vineyard, Luján de Cuyo 2010. This single vineyard wine is aged for 18 months in French and American oak barrels and is best described as BIG. It’s a fantastically full bodied wine with red and black berry, tobacco and liquorice flavours to the fore.