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Malbec

The most emblematic Argentinian wine is made of this variety. Known as Cot in most viticultural countries, its most common name in Argentina is Malbec or “French grape.” According to several authors, it is originally from Quercey and Cahors, in France. The French agronomist Michel Pouget first introduced it in the country in the mid 19th century because it showed good adaptation to the foothill region irrigated by the waters of the Mendoza River. Malbec experienced such a spectacular growth that it reached a planted area of 50,000 hectares. This variety generated a particular agricultural ecosystem. It was planted at high densities –5,500 plants per hectare; trained on low 1.5-meter on three-wire trellis with Bordelais double Guyot pruning. Irrigation methods used are surface and furrow irrigation. Wines made from these grapes acquired their own tipicity, which accounted for the creation of the first Argentinian Controlled Appellation of Origin (DOC): Luján de Cuyo.

Malbec is a frail variety demanding specific ecological conditions and vineyard management techniques, and does not reach the development of its varietal characteristics in all regions. It requires wide night-day temperature variation and cool nights. It is more sensitive to high night temperatures than Cabernet Sauvignon. Maximum average day temperatures should not be higher than 30°C during the months of ripening; otherwise, color intensity and total polyphenols in grapes might decrease. Some Mendoza regions gather all the above mentioned climatic conditions which account for the great success of Malbec in this province.

Up to these days, Malbec has been subject of many elaboration methods, which led to the most varied styles of wine, from young and simple wines to the most complex and aged ones, including rosés, sparkling and fortified wines. Among its organoleptic characteristics, its intense red color with purple hues stands out. The most common aromatic descriptors are plum, red fruit, ink and anise. In the mouth, it is softly meaty and rounded. Malbec is “the red wine” to pair with roasted beef, stews, pasta with tomato sauce and cheese, game meats and hard cheeses.

Information provided by agronomists Alberto Alcalde and José Rodríguez, and Wines of Argentina. Photos from ‘The World Atlas of Wine’ by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson.

Wines with this grape variety

Technical data

Evolución superficie y producción de Malbec en Argentina

Año Superficie (ha) Participación en la superficie total de tintas Producción (Quintales) Participación en la producción total de tintas
2000 1.061 1.5% 118.328 2.7%
2001 1.068 1.5% 161.109 2.7%
2002 1.045 1.3% 130.977 1.9%
2003 956 1.1% 115.840 1.9%
2004 1.061 1.5% 118.328 2.7%
2005 1.068 1.5% 161.109 2.7%
2006 1.045 1.3% 130.977 1.9%
2007 956 1.1% 115.840 1.9%
2008 956 1.1% 115.840 1.9%

Fuente: INV

Evolución superficie y producción de Barbera en Argentina

Año Superficie (ha) Participación en la superficie total de tintas Producción (Quintales) Participación en la producción total de tintas
2000 1.061 1.5% 118.328 2.7%
2001 1.068 1.5% 161.109 2.7%
2002 1.045 1.3% 130.977 1.9%
2003 956 1.1% 115.840 1.9%
2004 1.061 1.5% 118.328 2.7%
2005 1.068 1.5% 161.109 2.7%
2006 1.045 1.3% 130.977 1.9%
2007 956 1.1% 115.840 1.9%
2008 956 1.1% 115.840 1.9%

Fuente: INV