Malbec Day marks success of grape in new home

  • Laura Catena at Adrianna vineyard, high up in Argentina's Uco Valley

    Laura Catena at Adrianna vineyard, high up in Argentina's Uco Valley

On April 17, 1853 the president of Argentina made it his mission to change his country’s wine industry and a Frenchman was commissioned to bring over new vines.

Now known as Malbec Mondo, or Malbec Day, this date celebrates the tremendous success of this grape in its new home.

To fill in the story, let us step back to 50BC when grapes were first planted in an area now known as Cahors in France.

In the Middle Ages, their “black wine” was popular locally and for export, but this was hit badly by the phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s and again by severe frosts in 1956 that wiped out most of the vineyards.

It was in 1887 that the Georges Vigouroux family moved in, with a new vision for the Malbec grape of this region, and we carry some of their wines.

Georges Vigouroux Pigmentum 2017 Malbec de Cahors derives its name from the Latin term for “that which colours” and it is a wine that is sure to provide pleasure with its beautiful red colour and bouquet of summer flowers along with powerful aromas of raspberry, blackcurrant and blackberry. $18.25.

In the early 1970s, Georges Vigouroux, the third winemaking generation in this family, was looking for a place to replant Malbec vines on their historical “terroir”.

He found Château de Haute-Serre, abandoned since the end of the 19th century, an estate that had produced one of France’s great wines up to 1880.

It took him two years to clear the land, plant 160,000 vines and create a chai in the rehabilitated buildings. Haute-Serre became an unequalled winemaking site in southwest France. From the sale of his very first vintage of AOC Cahors in 1976, Vigouroux’s bet paid off; Haute-Serre was recognised as a first true “Cru” from Cahors.

Our Georges Vigouroux Chateau de Haute-Serre Seigneur 2014 is a blend of 90 per cent Malbec, 7 per cent merlot and 3 per cent tannat, that combine for a wonderfully complex and powerful bouquet of morello cherry, blackcurrant and spices. The aftertaste is long and silky. $30.90.

In 1902, Nicola Catena planted his first Malbec vineyard in Mendoza. In the early 1980s, his grandson, Nicola, took his family to California, because he had a teaching position at the University of California, Berkeley, just outside San Francisco.

On weekends, the family would travel to Napa and, as that area was just bursting on to the quality-wine scene, he vowed to take his family home to transform the rather mediocre wine quality in Argentina to one to compete with the world’s best.

Today, the family says: “We have poured our lives, our passion, our sweat and our spirit into transforming a scrub-laden, high-altitude oasis in a desert into some of the most beautiful vineyards in the world. We blended family and historic vines with state-of-the-art viticulture to create wines that are both spectacular and true to their terroir.”

Catena 2016 Malbec presents a deep violet colour with purple reflections. This microclimate blend of four unique vineyards offers intense aroma, soft texture and concentrated flavour. Deep aromas of ripe red and dark fruits are joined by delicate violet and lavender notes, with traces of vanilla and mocha.

A rich, concentrated mouthfeel is highlighted by flavours of blueberries and blackberries with a touch of leather and cinnamon. The wine has well-integrated tannins, bright acidity and a flinty minerality that provides exceptional length to the finish.

US wine critic Robert Parker rates it 92/100 and refers to its superb quality for the price. James Suckling awards it 91/100 and describes it as “firm and silky with blueberry and blackberry character”. $23.50.

“Each individual plant, not unlike a patient, has its own characteristics, its own individuality that we must preserve,” comments Laura Catena, doctor of medicine, biologist and fourth generation vintner, about their prize vineyard, called Adrianna.

Catena claim that this organically farmed phenomenal piece of land is the most studied vineyard in the world. Parker’s Wine Advocate calls it “South America’s Grand Cru” and adds that “words do not do justice to this beauty”.

Sitting as high as any vineyard in the world, possibly higher, the hours of sunlight and the brightness of the sun, permit photosynthesis to run freely and ripen aromas and tannins, while the cool climate allows the vines to preserve acids and keep the sugars in check. I have just seen a review of the 2016 Malbec from Adrianna and believe that it is the first Argentine wine to score a perfect 100/100.

We only have a little of the Adrianna Mundus Bacillus Terrae 2015 Malbec, as it is highly allocated. This small parcel in the vineyard is particularly rich in rhizobacteria that help vine roots withstand stress and absorb nutrients and the name means “elegant microbes of the earth”. I feel that the argument could be made that this is the finest Malbec in the world. $251.60.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). Visit

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Published Apr 5, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 5, 2019 at 1:30 pm)

Malbec Day marks success of grape in new home

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