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The Society's Exhibition Mendoza Malbec 2019

Red Wine from Argentina
The charms of the ripe and warm 2019 vintage in Mendoza were on full display here, with several Wine Champions tasters noting a floral and minty aroma adding extra interest to this succulent malbec. Aged in barrel for 14 months, it sports a palate of plums and damsons with a long, fine, fresh finish.
Out of stock
Code: AR4381

Wine characteristics

  • Red Wine
  • Medium-bodied
  • Malbec/Cot
  • 13.5% Alcohol
  • Oak used but not v. noticeable
  • Now to 2024
  • 75cl
  • Cork, diam
Play Video
Argentina buyer Toby Morrhall works with arguably Argentina’s top winery, Catena, to make our Exhibition-label wine. Video transcript

Video transcript

Malbec’s home is south-west France but it's second home, one might argue, is Argentina. In Argentina there are now 20,000 hectares of malbec, but only 6,000 in France. It's partly because malbec suffers from fungal diseases in a moist climate like south-west France, whereas it loves the climate in Argentina, the desert, dry desert air in Mendoza it ripens to perfection. We’re working with a company called Catena who have got wonderful vineyards throughout Mendoza, Lunlunta, Agrelo, Eugenio Bustos, Chacayes, Altomira, and Gualtallary, lovely areas and the winemaker we work with, Alejandro Vigil, who's the winemaker at Catena, he normally gives us about eight different wines and together we make a blend. And in Argentina the wine is a lot softer than in Cahors, it's rounder, the famous Robert Mondavi said it was soft as a baby's bottom, and so you have lovely red and black fruits, cherries, damsons, blackberries. A hint of oak because it’s been in wood for about 12, 14 months. And on the palate, it’s really sort of soft and succulent, floral aromas, a hint of oak and a nice, fresh finish.

Argentina

It may have been making wine since the mid-16th century (and is the fifth-largest wine-producing country), but it is only in the past decade or so that Argentina has shown wine drinkers around the world what it is capable of. Historically, Argentina has had a healthy domestic market, so exports were never the country's top priority. But as consumption at home slowed, more and more wineries have strived to make an impression overseas.

Argentina has now established a reputation for top-quality reds, and has attracted its fair share of foreign investment, from the likes of Château Lafite, LVMH (owner of Krug Champagne and Château d'Yquem in Sauternes, among others), and top wine consultant Michel Rolland.

The heart of the Argentine wine industry is Mendoza, in the far west of the country, where more than 80% of Argentina's wine is made. Altitude is a great marker of quality, and above 900m the climate is cool enough to produce fine wines. Within Mendoza, sub-regions to look out for include ...
It may have been making wine since the mid-16th century (and is the fifth-largest wine-producing country), but it is only in the past decade or so that Argentina has shown wine drinkers around the world what it is capable of. Historically, Argentina has had a healthy domestic market, so exports were never the country's top priority. But as consumption at home slowed, more and more wineries have strived to make an impression overseas.

Argentina has now established a reputation for top-quality reds, and has attracted its fair share of foreign investment, from the likes of Château Lafite, LVMH (owner of Krug Champagne and Château d'Yquem in Sauternes, among others), and top wine consultant Michel Rolland.

The heart of the Argentine wine industry is Mendoza, in the far west of the country, where more than 80% of Argentina's wine is made. Altitude is a great marker of quality, and above 900m the climate is cool enough to produce fine wines. Within Mendoza, sub-regions to look out for include Luján de Cuyo in the Upper Mendoza Valley, and the Uco Valley, to the south-west of the city of Mendoza.

One of the strengths of the region is the quantity of old vineyards, planted to a relatively high density. The climate here is semi-desert and vines could not survive on the low levels of rainfall alone. The Huarpe Indians, who were in the area before the arrival of the Spanish, long ago built a sophisticated system of irrigation channels, many of which form the basis for the modern structures. What rain there is has the unhappy habit of falling in February and March and the harvest takes place in late March, so many vineyards are planted on free draining soils to mitigate against the effects. Flood irrigation is used where the land is flat enough and drip irrigation is increasingly used to give large but infrequent doses of water to the vines. Hail is a significant risk too, with 30% of vines damaged every year.

There is less regional diversity in Argentina than you might imagine, because the climatic differences are often negated by the effects of altitude. For example, the region of Salta, in the north of the country, has some of the highest vineyards in the world, at around 2,000m, but the region's northerly location means its climate is similar to Mendoza. The altitude here, and in Mendoza, provides the vines with plenty of ultraviolet light which encourages the development of anthocyanins and therefore colour in the red grapes, hence the rich, deep colour of many Argentine malbecs. When these anthocyanins combine with tannins during fermentation the result is the velvety, opulent texture one associates with the best malbecs. It is one of the chief reasons for the difference between the Argentine malbecs and the firmer, drier versions from the grape’s natural home at Cahors in south-west France.

Salta province, more than 1,000 kilometres north of Mendoza, also makes very fine malbec and other reds at altitudes over 1,500 metres, but is also the heartland of torrontés production in Argentina. This cross between país and muscat is a source of wonderfully aromatic and fresh white wines. Many vines here are pergola trained, allowing the grapes to hang down beneath the canopy, shaded from the sun to prevent burning.

Soils throughout Argentina’s wine regions vary: alluvial soils such as gravel, silts sand and clay are common around Mendoza and in the Rio Negro area in Patagonia, Argentina’s other major wine-producing area.

Rio Negro is also a semi-desert area, far from the cooling effects of altitude in the Andes and the sea, which is 500 kilometres to the east. The Rio Negro, meaning ‘black river’, runs east on a glacial bed that lies beneath the arid plateau. The waters of the river irrigate the area via channels initially built by British engineers in 1828. Frost is a major risk here and it is not unusual to see the smudge pots often used in Chablis employed in the vineyards of Rio Negro. Soils are varied but generally alluvial with some limestone cropping up amongst the pebbles

A wide range of grape varieties are cultivated in the Rio Negro and, apart from one or two exceptions, the region has yet to earn the reputation for quality that Mendoza and the other mountain vineyards have achieved.
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Catena

The imposing Bodega Catena Zapata winery, modelled on an ancient truncated Mayan pyramid, is set against a stunning backdrop of vast, open skies and the awe-inspiring Andes. It is in these remarkable high-altitude surroundings in Mendoza that the Catena family has helped to bring Argentine wines critical recognition around the world.

Nicolás Catena, who in 2009 became the first person from South America to receive the prestigious Decanter Man of the Year award, always believed that Argentina could produce world-class wines. He realised, after closely studying the effects of altitude on growing conditions, that it was possible to plant vines at high elevation, and use cooler temperatures along with greater sun exposure to ripen grapes whilst preserving natural acidity.

Their highest vineyards at Gualtallary are at an impressive 1480m altitude, and were planted with the help of renowned Argentine viticulturist Pedro Marchevsky. Some thought that grapes would simply never ripen here – hail is a big issue, and the vineyards even get snow – however even cabernet sauvignon has thrived. Malbec is particularly good here: Pedro experimented tirelessly with around 100 strains of the grape to find the best examples with smaller berries, good colour and better tannins. He eventually narrowed his selection down to just seven or eight which have been replanted, so these vineyards are now used for their most premium malbec, including some of the fruit for The Society’s Exhibition Malbec.
The imposing Bodega Catena Zapata winery, modelled on an ancient truncated Mayan pyramid, is set against a stunning backdrop of vast, open skies and the awe-inspiring Andes. It is in these remarkable high-altitude surroundings in Mendoza that the Catena family has helped to bring Argentine wines critical recognition around the world.

Nicolás Catena, who in 2009 became the first person from South America to receive the prestigious Decanter Man of the Year award, always believed that Argentina could produce world-class wines. He realised, after closely studying the effects of altitude on growing conditions, that it was possible to plant vines at high elevation, and use cooler temperatures along with greater sun exposure to ripen grapes whilst preserving natural acidity.

Their highest vineyards at Gualtallary are at an impressive 1480m altitude, and were planted with the help of renowned Argentine viticulturist Pedro Marchevsky. Some thought that grapes would simply never ripen here – hail is a big issue, and the vineyards even get snow – however even cabernet sauvignon has thrived. Malbec is particularly good here: Pedro experimented tirelessly with around 100 strains of the grape to find the best examples with smaller berries, good colour and better tannins. He eventually narrowed his selection down to just seven or eight which have been replanted, so these vineyards are now used for their most premium malbec, including some of the fruit for The Society’s Exhibition Malbec.

Catena is also known for its pioneering chardonnay production, also grown exceptionally high at 1400m altitude, producing beautifully balanced fruit. Other than Gualtallary, Catena have a superb collection of other vineyards at differing altitudes over 1000m at Lunlunta, Agrelo, Tupungato, Eugenio Bustos and Altamira, where different combinations of soils and altitudes produce a range of varying grape varieties and wine styles. These superbly managed vineyards are at the heart of the company’s success.

Nicolás also introduced modern winemaking and viticultural techniques to Argentina including small French oak barrels, drip irrigation, extremely low yields and plant-by-plant selection. His significant investment in research has been a major factor in the quality of wines produced. The chief winemaker at Catena is Alejandro Vigil, a boundless enthusiast who always appears to be doing three things at once. He was previously involved in research at INTA, the state viticultural body, and his combination of impressive knowledge, relentless energy and creative experimentation has helped Catena to push the boundaries of Argentine wine production.

The Society’s Exhibition Malbec maintains its consistent finesse because Catena allows us complete freedom from vintage to vintage. Every year we are shown samples of malbec from six to eight sites, and are then able to choose the blend ourselves to ensure we capture the freshness, perfume and spirit of these excellent locations. The blend is then aged for about 14 months in oak.
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Argentina Vintage 2019

A vintage of excellence with slightly lower than average volumes at harvest but high-quality fruit. An extended growing season in relatively cool conditions gave the grapes the chance to ripen slowly and evenly while retaining lovely aromatics and freshness, both of which balance concentration.

2019 vintage reviews
2018 vintage reviews
2017 vintage reviews

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