Argentina is the world’s 6th largest wine producer yet, until quite recently, their output was almost completely ignored in the UK. And, although things are beginning to change, compared to the other large New World countries, the USA, Australia and Chile, they are still under-represented on our shelves.
This is a shame as even their cheaper wines are almost always very attractive and approachable. And, moving a little up-market, you’ll find wines that are truly delicious – in a leaner, more European style than, say, Chile – and also excellent value. This is particularly true of their reds with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec the varieties to look out for. The least-known of these, Malbec, is often described as Argentina’s ‘signature’ grape or unique selling point. Indeed, for many of today’s wine lovers, Malbec is synonymous with the Mendoza region.
But, like many varieties found in the New World, Malbec’s origins are in France, in Cahors in the south-west – an area I’d recommend that those who enjoy this grape should investigate further. It was also once widely grown in Bordeaux but the vast popularity of Cabernet and Merlot and the difficulty of ripening Malbec in the relatively cool climate has meant that its importance has reduced significantly there.
So, the largest plantings now are in Mendoza in the foothills of Argentina’s Andes Mountains where it seems to thrive. Malbecs from brands such as Catena, Trapiche and Argento are reliably good and widely available in supermarkets and wine shops, but I was particularly impressed with a bottle of Don Nicanor’s Nieto Sentiner that I found in a local independent wine merchant, Grape and Grind in Bristol’s Gloucester Road (£13.99).
Rich and quite full-bodied but in no way heavy, lovely blackcurrant and blackberry fruit flavours followed an enticing aroma of violets. There was also a subtle smokiness in there from 12 months in barrel. All in all, a delightfully harmonious and rewarding red, ideal with red meat or, for vegetarians, perhaps, an aubergine bake.