Seven Days of Malbec and Malbec World Day 2015:
Wine tasting in the afternoon, at least when it isn’t as part of a wine tour, seems sublimely decadent to me. Especially when it is rich, fruity malbec. Who would turn down an invitation to preview the Gaucho Seven Days of Malbec events and learn a little more about the rationale behind that restaurant group’s all Argentinian wine list? Certainly not me.
Gaucho’s director of wine, Phil Crozier is affectionately known as ‘Mr Malbec’ by his friends and colleagues. The rationale behind the nickname quickly became apparent as he walked us through a quick history of wine making in Argentina and of the Malbec grape. Two thick booklets covering the wines and wine makers on the Gaucho group list, a map of Argentina and six tasting glasses set the scene.
The history of wine making in Argentina goes back to Jesuit priests accompanying the Spanish conquistadors in the early 16th century. But at that stage the grape variety used was brought from Chile and the wine produced was intended for sacred use. It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th Century that the ‘French Grape’, what we now call Malbec, was introduced to the country and popularised by the growing number of Italian immigrants. The governor of Mendoza actively worked to develop the wine industry in Argentina, passing a bill on April 17th 1853 for the foundation of a Quinta Normal and School of Agriculture. Almost in parallel, the phylloxera epidemic devastated European viticulture. Argentina though, was unaffected and the traditional French grape varieties brought over to help develop the new world flourished.
The Malbec we enjoy today has been refined and improved. From the 1940s to 1970s, Argentinian wine making became very commoditised. Wine consumption per capital was the highest in the world, at 91ltrs and there was a focus on quantity rather than quality. But, throughout and after the revolution, consumption dropped to around 41 ltrs per head. Most of the vineyards were destroyed during the revolution in an effort to find more land suitable for food production. By the end, only 10 hectares of vines remained.
The re-planting process has allowed for a regional approach and a conscious effort to improve the quality of the end product with the aim of a wine that can be exported. As Phil explained, Argentina has some geographic advantages that means wine from Argentina does not require the long aging of their European counterparts to soften the tannins. His specially designed glass with a wider body and narrow top, large enough to allow you to tip your head back and take in the full aromas, showcases the products perfectly.
On to our tasting – we worked our way through a series of super Malbecs. all delicious, but quite different in style – from the light purple/blue tinged Susan Balbo Mandala 2013 through to the Fabre Montmayou Patagonia ‘barrel selection’ 20102 which was much more European in style. Then on to what Phil calls ‘New Generation’ Malbecs – including a lovely ‘Malbon 2011 from the Michelini Brothers ‘Passionate Wines’ Label and some of the Gaucho Group’s own wines, including Vina Patricia, from 80 year old vineyards. Alongside the wines, we enjoyed mouthfuls of Gaucho Lomito steak.
In fact we managed to eat our way through so much that we ended up with a second batch, this time of Cuadril (rump).
Although I was taught it’s a good idea to make sure that you eat whenever you are drinking wine…and that it’s very rude to leave anything on your plate!
Whether or not wine tasting in the afternoon is a good idea, it was a fabulous introduction for me to a grape variety which I drink a lot but knew very little about.
If you’d like to learn more too, Gaucho are hosting a whole series of events from Monday 13th through to Sunday 19th April across their restaurants:
Each event costs £20 and you can find out more on the Gaucho website:
The Pioneers – Monday 13th April at Gaucho Piccadilly; covering the range of Malbecs from the pioneers that bought Malbec to the international market.
The New Generation– Tuesday 14th April at Gaucho Richmond; giving you a chance to try the new, super cool wine makers that are causing a stir in Argentina.
Old Vine Malbec – Wednesday 15th April at Gaucho Smithfield; for those of you wanting to try some Malbecs from the oldest vineyards in Mendoza.
Malbec Blends – Thursday 16th April – Gaucho Leeds; A chance to taste the blends which add a new dimension.
Extreme Malbecs – Friday 17th April – Gaucho Chancery Lane; A chance to look at Malbecs from the extreme high altitude regions in the north of Argentina on Malbec World day itself.
Super Malbec – Saturday 18th April – Gaucho Charlotte St; The creme de la creme of Malbecs straight from the ‘uber’ special, single vineyard Malbecs.
Vina Patricia – Sunday 19th April – Gaucho Hampstead; A chance to taste Gaucho’s very own Malbec grown in Lunlunta, Mendoza.