What’s the Deal with Malbec?

Let me guess…first thing you think of when you hear “Malbec” is…Argentina? Boom!

Admittedly, at Klaustur Bar I have been strict about not offering any Argentine or Chilean wines. I feel that because there is such great volume of wine produced by these budding countries that there is a large variance on the quality of wine produced by them. As a result, the affordable wines from these countries available in Iceland tend to be much lower on the quality scale than I would care to offer to our guests. As I’ve said before, at Klaustur Bar I have a commitment to offering our guests only the highest quality products so they can have a high quality experience. They have to be shipped exactly half way around the world, which is difficult and costly enough that their after-cost price would be unattractive compared to all the good French and Italian wines we can get here. Such is the life on a cold volcanic rock.

Malbec originates from France, quite possibly southwest France or in Burgundy. Wines from this grape are known to be dark, inky, full body, tannic, rich and fruity. Despite its origins, Argentina has been the most dominant force in making Malbec wine as prevalent as it is, and there’s a great story behind it. Malbec plantings in France were decimated by the phylloxera root louse in the late 1800’s, as were most vineyards in France and Western Europe. Luckily a few decades earlier French Malbec vines had migrated to Argentina, followed by waves of immigrants skilled in winemaking that were fleeing the phylloxera pandemic.¹

Since then, Argentina has enjoyed original Vitis Vinifera root-stock grapes that can’t even be found in France, let alone most other parts of the earth. Extreme isolation has played a big part in this. Argentina’s geographical isolation from other parts of the earth, as well as the Mendoza region’s geological isolation due to bodies of waters, mountains, and altitude. This magical intersection of Old World grapes and New World terroir makes for the popular wine that you know today. Argentina is the world’s top producer of Malbec, followed by France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand, and USA.²

It was very exciting for me to have an opportunity to try three very different Malbecs side-by-side in a tasting flight at Vino Volo in Dulles International Airport. The Argentine Malbec was earthy: medium body, nose of plum, rosemary, mushroom, and a palate of raspberry jam, rosemary, and minerals. The California Malbec was fruity: light body, nose of red cherry, cooking herbs, grilled meat and a palate of maraschino cherry, raspberry, and smoke. The French Malbec, a famed “Black Wine of Cahors”, was very dry: medium body, nose of blackberry, plum, grilled meat and a palate of stewed blackberry, earth, and cedar.

Seems strange that we wouldn’t carry a wine with this much history and richness at Klaustur Bar, right? I’ll let you know as soon as we have the perfect ones for you there.

curious malbec

¹Argentine Wine

²Wines of Argentina

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