Before 2004, or so, nobody had ever heard of Malbec (unless you are a total and utter wine geek!). The reason for the explosion of malbec in the world market is really the 2002 economic crisis in Argentina. Well that was the catalyst at least. The story of malbec in Mendoza goes back to Paul Hobbs in the late 1980s visiting Nicolas Catena, the owner of the Catena Zapata winery (the biggest bodega in Argentina). Basically, it is said that Hobbs told Catena that he needed to invest in modern winemaking techniques in order to transform his wines into an exportable product.

Catena followed Hobbs’ advice and invested in things like oak barrels and stainless steel tanks in order to make better wines. Another recommendation by Hobbs and the other flying wine makers like Michel Rolland and Alberto Antonini was to start planting Malbec. Prior to this time, Bonarda had been the most widely planted grape in Argentina. Bonarda was great for making high yield, low quality wine… basically bulk wine, that in Argentina was called Dama Juana (Lady Jane in English). This wine was consumed with ice or soda water (as you still see in Buenos Aires today!) and not really appreciated the way that one would at an luxurious wine tasting in Buenos Aires.

 

Malbec Vines, Club Tapiz

Malbec it was said, by the flying wine makers, would do very well in the terroir of Mendoza. The dry, high altitude climate and poor soils would create a naturally pest free environment for malbec to thrive in. Malbec had a problem with humidity in its native France in that its thin skins made it prone to disease and rot and fungus. Not good things if you want to let your grapes ripen on the vine! So Catena and the other wine makers listened and started planting malbec. The rest of the history of Argentina wine in a few….

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