Malbec originated in Bordeaux in the southwest of France where this variety was cultivated and whose resulting wines bore the name of the place: Cahors wines. These wines gained recognition during the times of the Roman Empire and their prestige was consolidated in the Middle Ages to gain full recognition in modern times. The conquest of the English market was a crucial step for the success of Cahors wines. This process started with the wedding between the King of England and the Duchess of Aquitaine, which brought the southwest of France under the rule of the English King and this drove the interest in French wine from that region. When the phylloxera plague destroyed French viticulture towards the end of the 19th century, the “Cot” fell into oblivion. However, a culture of appreciation of Malbec had already consolidated and it was on this basis that Argentine Malbec developed some time later.
Malbec grapes are susceptible to rot and mildew and therefore are very difficult to grow in damp conditions. The dry climate in Mendoza was therefore ideal when the grape was brought to Argentina by Michel Aimé Pouget from France in 1853.
A young Malbec is typically a very dense and dark colour as cherry red or morello cherry red. This red colour can evolve into almost black and with time into an elegant ruby red. Morello cherry, cherry, berries, plum and raisins are the main aromas in fine Malbec. For some specialists the violet, the strawberry and the amber are its three main aromas. In the mouth, flavours like plum, plum marmalade, morello cherry and morello cherry marmalade appear. Malbec wines are warm, soft and they present pleasant sweet tannins once they start to evolve. The aroma and flavour of vanilla, chocolate, cacao and coffee arises from the oxidation of the oak wood of the barrels together with the polyphenols of the wine
Red Wine Polyphenols
A study in Denmark (Morten Grønbæk, Copenhagen Centre for Population Studies, 2000) was able to conclude that red wine wine drinkers have significantly lower mortality rates from coronary heart disease and this was attributed to the red wine polyphenols in the wine, acting as powerful anti-oxidants.
Malbec World Day, 17 April
In 1853, Michel Aimé Pouget, a French agronomist, was hired to run the Quinta Agronómica de Mendoza where he then sought to incorporate new varietals, having brought from France with him various plants, seeds and different grape varieties, including Malbec and Pinot Noir. These efforts were well received by the Governor of Mendoza, Sarmiento, who sought to build on this work to improve the success of local Mendoza wine industry.
On 17th April 1853, he submitted a bill for the foundation of a Quinta Normal and a School of Agriculture, which was passed on 6th September 1853.
The efforts made by Pouget, Sarmiento and the Quinta Normal of Mendoza played a key role in the process of creating the Malbec success story of the last 20 years, so Wines of Argentina, declared 17th April as the day that represents both the transformation of Argentina’s wine industry and the starting point for the development of Malbec as its flagship variety and international emblem of the country’s viticulture and winemaking.
At the end of the 19th century, viticultural development was fast increasing largely through the efforts of Italian and French immigrants who had migrated to Argentina. It was clear that Malbec had adapted quickly to the varied terroirs in Argentina and was producing far better wines than it did in its original land, France.