Wine tasting: Argentine malbec wines
The story of malbec is that of an underdog that overcomes all adversity and becomes a superstar.
Malbec originates in France where it is grown in 30 different regions. However, it almost fell into obscurity after the 1956 great frost in Bordeaux killed most of the malbec vines. When it came to replant, the disease-prone grape variety was replaced with hardier vines.
Across the world, in Argentina, malbec was given a second lease of life. Malbec vine cuttings were first taken from France to Argentina in the mid-19th century, and, by the late 20th century, Argentine vintners were exporting plenty of it. Exports took off from 2005 to 2009, jumping fourfold to three million cases, most of it malbec.
Its success increased even further during the 2008 financial crisis, mainly due to a change in consumption patterns as Americans looked for value-for-money wines - a criterion easily fulfilled by malbec.
Today, malbec is Argentina's new superstar and is the country's signature grape. In recognition of the variety's success, trade commission Wines of Argentina has founded Malbec World Day, which falls each year on April 17.
The deep and inky Argentine malbec wines, mostly from the Mendoza region in the west, are loved for their warm, juicy and ripe black fruit. They tend to have higher alcohol levels of 14 per cent, with soft tannins. The Mendoza region has some of the world's highest-altitude vineyards, averaging 900 metres above sea level, producing richer coloured and more aromatic wines.
Catena Zapata Nicasia Vineyards Malbec 2008
Catena is a fourth-generation family winery. Nicola Catena, known as Argentina's Robert Mondavi, was instrumental in bringing Argentinian wine to the world media's attention. His daughter, Laura, a qualified emergency room doctor, is known for her studies on high-altitude wines.
This malbec has blackberry notes and spicy overtones. Elegant and soft on the palate, with high fruit intensity and soft ripe tannins. Very long finish. A high-quality, complex wine with ageing potential. HK$760
Luca Malbec 2010
Made by Laura Catena and named after her son, this wine is made from 47-year-old vines. Spicy, herbal, chocolate notes on the nose. Full-bodied, ripe, dark berry fruit. Well-balanced and approachable. HK$215
Zuccardi Q Malbec 2010
Deep purple, intense back fruit and plums. Full-bodied, with higher alcohol levels at 14.5 per cent. Soft, ripe tannins. Easy to drink. HK$168
Available from Watson's Wines, Pacific Place II, tel: 2526 2832