A few days ago, I realized that World Malbec Day was upon us. I, of course, had just placed an order for wine to be shipped to me and had NOT included a Malbec. In desperation, while power shopping in my mask at the grocery store, I scanned the wine section and picked up a Malbec. A middle shelf Malbec. But we will get to that later. Perhaps it will be good? Regardless, it gives me an opportunity to dive back into Argentinian wine.
The origins of Malbec
Malbec hails from Cahors a region in Southwest France. There it is known as “Cot”. It does have a flashier name, “The Black Wine of Cahors”. It was a wine so dark that you could not see your fingers through the glass. The region sits along the winding river Lot. It’s really very beautiful and worthy of a visit. You can read more about it below. But today we are talking about Argentinian Malbec.
Malbec and it’s journey to Argentina
It was the mid-19th century when Cot came to Argentina. Domingo Faustino Sarmiento was the President of Argentina in 1853. Her hired an agronomist Michel Aimé Pouget to bring french vine cuttings to Argentina.
These vines were planted in the Mendoza region in the foothills of the Andes and this grape found a new home and a new voice. Today it is grown primarily in the Mendoza region, but it can be found as far south at Rio Negro (which is near Patagonia) and as far north as Salta. Almost all of these regions are inland near the Andes.
For many years these wines were made and consumed domestically. It’s just been in the last few decades that the rest of the world has been able to enjoy Argentinian Malbec.
Argentina is 2, 268 miles North to South. The north can be almost tropical in climate and Patagonia to the south is cold and windy with the far reaches of the Tierra del Feugo being subpolar. The scenery here can be stunning. In the North the red rocks of the desert are astounding. East tucked into a corner between Brazil and Paraguay you find the Iguassu Falls. The Gauchos are a cultural symbol of the country. More than a cowboy, these nomads herded cattle inthe region from Patagonia to the border with Uruguay. Then there is Patagonia and the over 350 glaciers, with perito Moreno being one of the most impressive.
The Mendoza region is the primary growing region, were you will find over 70% of the nations wine grapes being grown. This might have something to do with the fact that the region sits at the best latitude for wine (around 32.89 south. Consider that 30-50 degrees is considered wine growing regions. Here in South America, further north gets too warm and further south too cold. Sometimes in the Southern Hemisphere, this gets shifted to 28-46 degrees south.
Vineyards here sit between 2,000 and 4,000 feet above sea level. The Andes tower above them protecting them from wind and rain coming from the Pacific over Chile. The mountains create a rain shadow, so the grapes stay dry, with no worries of mildew. The Andes snowmelt provides ample irrigation for the vineyards. Nighttime temperatures drop due to the dryness and are perfect for slow ripening and keeping acid in the grapes.
The Zonda Winds
On the downside, the Zonda winds, that travel up from the Pacific, over Chile and then down the Andes into Argentina in the spring and summer, can damage leaves and fruit. In Argentina they call it Huayrapuca which translates to “the witches wind”. You might think of it as a souped up version of Provençe’s Mistral Wind.
Wine Classifications in Argentina
There are 2 DOCs (Denominación de origen controlada) in the Mendoza region. They are in fact, the only 2 DOC’s in Argentina. These are the Luján de Cuyo DOC and the San Rafael DOC. This system is young and is still in it developmental stages.
On to our wine…
Gaucho Spur Espuela del Gaucho Mendoza 2018 Malbec Reserve
The name sounds great right! The label says “Case Select No. 0033” and is signed by Winemaker Johnson Scutt. So let’s dig deeper.
The wine is imported by WX Brands. They have a portfolio with a wide variety of wines that include Chronic Cellars from Paso Robles and Baileyana from Australia’s Edna Valley. They also have a variety of exclusive brands from around the globe from Chile, Italy, New Zealand, France, Germany, Spain, and in the US from Santa Barbara, Napa and Oregon. Gaucho Spur is one of their wines from Argentina. There is nothing more than a label shot in the portfolio.
Here’s what the label had to say:
A keeper of the grasslands, defender of the defenseless, the most passionate of lovers , and charming combatant, the South American Gaucho is a man of heavy manners and tall reputation. He rides by saddle and spur, protector of the fruits of the land.
Our Limited Edition Reserve Malbec is a superior wine hailing from vineyards located high on the mountains of Mendoza. This renowned region brings you stunning varietal character through luxuriously rich and concentrated fruit flavors. Like the Gaucho’s dominant character, this wine is reputably abundant with flavors of black cherry and blueberry. Notes of raspberry and modest toast aromas carry this wine of pride and passion. Will stand on it’s own or alongside grilled rack of lamb with pepper and rosemary spice rub.On the bottle Gaucho Spur – Espuela del Goucho 2018 Reserve Malbec.
Johnson Scutt, Winemaker
So I went to look up the winemaker. I found him listed as a winemaker for a company called Revel Wine. He deals with the Southern Hemisphere and they call him “The Flying Winemaker”. He grew up on his family’s wine making estate in New Zealand, got a degree in Wine Science and traveled the world. They note that he joined them as the Director of Sourcing and is “devoted to finding and delivering honest varietal expression for the best value.” That’s all I’ve got. That’s as far down the rabbit hole as I could find anything.
It’s not the type of wine I like to drink. I usually want a bit more of a story, to hear about the actual vineyard. I like farm to table and vine to glass if I can do it! But desperate times…. Anyway, for just $16.99, it gave me an opportunity to explore Argentina!
Pairing the Malbec from Argentina
We paired it with steak. When I think Malbec from Argentina, I think Gauchos. So I rubbed the steak with cracked black pepper, fresh rosemary, dried sage and paprika. I roasted some potatoes in olive oil and herbs and made a salad of zucchini ribbons with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and sage blossoms.
The wine went perfectly. It was not a show stopper, but it was fine as a table wine to accompany this meal. It was approachable and smooth with just the right amount of tannins.
I look forward to another occasion for diving in and further exploring wines from Argentina.
For more information on the Wines of Argentina:
Of course, we’ve written about Malbec before, but not always from Argentina:
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.