Malbec World Day
(what do you mean you didn’t know?)
Not to be confused with World Malbec Day, as the abbreviation had slightly worrying overtones. Is it an excuse to create an event out of a normal day, and thus fuel sales of malbec to the gullible? Well… Perhaps. But it worked on me at least. And why not? Malbec is an illustrious grape which is growing extensively in popularity. In its latest incarnation as the national grape of Argentina sales are getting stronger and stronger, but malbec has a long illustrious history which can perhaps justify a day of celebration…
At the height of the Middle Ages a young English king created an Empire throughout Europe including some key areas of France. When Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitane her territories were brought under the rule of the English king. Bordeaux, as the capital of Aquitaine had been producing wine since the first century AD and the wines from this region soon found an admiring public over the channel. The wine which was drunk at the wedding of the two was made from malbec – one of the six grape varieties which is legally grown in Bordeaux.
This isn’t the only royal connection to the grape. The Russian Czar Peter the Great made malbec the official grape variety from which all of his communion wine was made. Francois I of France was such a fan he had a private vineyard created just outside Paris and it was even said to be a favourite of the Pope. In more recent times however, the malbec vines of Bordeaux were devasted by frosts in the mid twentieth century. But by this stage malbec’s story had taken an international turn.
If malbec’s historic home is France, in particular Cahors and Bordeaux, then surely its modern home is Argentina. In the 1850’s , an Argentine named Domingo Faustino Sarmiento had cuttings of various wines brought over from France to be introduced to his country. Malbec cuttings from Bordeaux were the first to be planted and the roots ran extremely deep. Here there altitude of the Andes and ferocious sun made ideal conditions for malbec.
An increase in quality in the late 20th Century, the seeking out of vineyard sites to truly suit malbec and more favourable economic times has seen the “sleeping giant” of the Argentinian wine industry finally awake. The most widely grown grape, and the most exported, has by far been malbec. So raise a large glass of whatever wine tickles your fancy, and reflect on a grape with a fantastic history, and a very promising future.