A successful haul for this must-list variety, with Chile achieving a bit of a David versus Goliath giant-slaying

Most sommeliers might view Malbec with tolerance rather than outright excitement, but there’s no arguing with the fact that it performs well in this competition year after year. And even with a fair few of the Argentinian versions entered in the Varietal Classic category (see Essentials, p.54), there were still some medals left to go around here.

Sadly for the Argies, the only Gold went to a Chilean – the somewhat pricey, though undeniably good, Agustinos – a fact that must have gone down like a cold cup of pulque
in Mendoza. Seeing that the interloper then went on to pick up a By the Glass award will surely only have added salt to the wound.

Perhaps because it was the only non-Argentinian wine entered, the Agustinos (from
the cool Bio Bio region) had something that its competitors didn’t: a lifted elegance to
go with its ripe fruit.

This tasting proved once again that while the Argentinians are brilliant at harnessing this variety to make excellent ‘simple, fruity and affordable’ wine – as the Doña Paula
and Michel Torino prove – when they start to get more ambitious, there are sometimes uncomfortable gaps between what they are striving for and what they actually achieve.

There were a number of expensive Malbecs sent in from East of the Andes – some in bottles so heavy that they needed Sensible Wine Services’ patent ‘hydraulic balls-out bottle pouring gear’ to lift them – but only one, the Tomero, picked up a medal.

The biggest problem, and this has been mentioned before by the sommeliers, is
the tendency to assume that higher prices can be justified simply by more ripeness
and more oak. Such wines might play well in the domestic market and the States, but
they rarely impress European sommeliers.

‘The cheaper wines punched above their weight. At the other end of the scale,
there were good wines, but not necessarily value for money,’ said Garry Clark.

Still, a Gold and three Silvers is a good reflection on the category as a whole, and proof that it deserves its success with the public. The questions are, firstly, will Chile send
in a few more of this variety next year since the quality is clearly there and, secondly,
will the Argentinians learn from the Agustinos’ success?

Tune in next year, for another thrilling instalment of Malbec and the Oak Monsters.

“People can’t get enough of Malbec, it’s very popular. There has to come a time when people will sell these top wines as well as the cheap ones. ” Laura Ward, Vivat Bacchus


Agustinos Gran Terroir Malbec 2008, Bio Bio, Chile
£11.99 @ Bibendum
  As Chile adds complex Malbec to its growing repertoire, there are strong aromas of dark fruits mixed with fresh cloves, Victory V lozenges and eucalyptus, plus hints of spice, sweet coconut and vanilla. The herbaceous palate has firm tannins and good blackcurrant fruit. ‘The fruits are ripe and dark, with smoky, spicy oak,’ said Tom Forrest.


Dona Paula Malbec Mendoza 2009, Mendoza, Argentina
£5.64 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Deep purple in colour, with ripe, sweet dark fruits, floral aromas and fresh raspberry and blackcurrant acidity thrown in, there’s plenty to enjoy here. ‘Nice clean fruits on a medium-to full-bodied palate,’ said Senthil Kulandhaisamy, Oxo Tower. Good value, too.

Michel Torino Don David Reserve Malbec 2009, Cafayate, Argentina
£6.75 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Deep, deep purple in colour, with a dark earthy nose and plenty of spices, the tannins are medium to fine, the length is good and very dry. With high oak levels compared with the fruit, Senthil Kulandhaisamy found the wine, ‘complex, spicy and full-bodied’.

Tomero Malbec Gran Reserve 2008, Uco Valley, Argentina
£19.97 @ Enotria
Reinforcing its position as an excellent source for Malbec, the Uco Valley has contributed to the composure and restraint shown by this savoury, richly flavoured wine. With dense, ripe black and red fruits, creamy oak, sweet, dark fruits, liquorice and spice, there’s much to savour.

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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