Be it a short burst of promotion, or a fun excuse to open the next bottle of wine, many grape varieties have a day of celebration devoted over to them each year. You can celebrate Chardonnay day on the 23rd May, Merlot day on the 7th November or, in case you were not aware, today is Malbec day! Time to pop to the shops for some Argentinian Malbec!
Argentina is Malbec’s adopted home, where the consistently long warm days allow the grapes to ripen more evenly than it’s frosty French origin, and whilst French plantings of the grape are decreasing, Argentine plantings are on the increase. The reason it does so well away from its homeland is that the Malbec grapes are susceptible to frost, and in France’s cold marginal climate, that is an ever present threat. Whilst it is still grown in parts of south-west France, it’s primarily found in their Bordeaux-style blends as opposed to varietal wines. Malbec is a grape that produces a tannic wine, and these bitter notes can come to the fore when the grapes are not fully ripened, thus it makes sense to blend it with other grapes that can perform well in these climatic conditions. This ensures that all flavours are rounded out in to a smooth and drinkable wine.
Argentina is of course much warmer than France, and higher altitude plantings (where it gets up to 1 ºC cooler for every 100 metres you ascend) can deliver grapes that see cool conditions, but with the added advantage of warm consistent sunshine throughout the growing season. In a nice bit of serendipity, the fuller flavour of Malbec happily pairs well with steak, which is an Argentine food staple. It therefore doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination to decide that tonight’s dinner for me will be steak paired with an Argentinian Malbec. Job done.
Or is it? Am I simply taking the lazy option? The day is organised by Wines of Argentina, and placed on the anniversary of the day when the first Malbec plantings were recognised in Mendoza, but the day is all about the grape, and not the location. It’s not Argentinian Malbec day, after all.
When planning any celebration it’s natural to want the best experience, which in this case could well be Argentinian Malbec and steak, but in planning for success, do you also plan to fail? By safeguarding our choices do we also miss out on what can make an event unique? Surely there can be as much fun in playing away from type, as there can be in getting it spot on? And you don’t even need to worry if things don’t go to plan, as there’s only another 365 days to go until the next opportunity!
With these thoughts in mind I might just do things a little different today, and pop my Argentinian Malbec back in the rack, and nip out for some French Malbec instead.