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A very brief wine synopsis by Sarah Wong

By Tomas Tonnelier | June 4, 2013

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.

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