WSET Bitesize – What is Malbec?

Hello everyone and thank you uh for Coming today to join our session on what Is malbec Um so my name is cara powell i am a Business development manager for emea And so i am a certified educator and i Am certified to teach the level one Award in wine and the level two award in Wine I’ve been working at wrct for six years Across a couple of different departments And i am also a diploma student so i can Really empathize with anyone who is Listening to this and studying for any Exam any wset exam or any other exam Um so we have quite a short session Today We’re going to try to keep it around 20-25 minutes um and today’s session is Really going to be geared a kind of Beginner to verging onto intermediate Level for you And so i’ll do my best to kind of Explain any of those buzz words or any Words that people might not be as Familiar with Um we don’t have a lot of time so There’s quite a lot of content to cover So i’ll do my best to get through it Quite quickly um there is also a q a box That i think bottom of your screen and It should come up when you hit the Ribbon If you have any questions um throughout

The session please put them in there And we will i will try my best to answer Those at the end of the session for you So let’s jump right into it So what is malbec so malbec is a black Grape variety which is grown in a number Of locations all across the world So it originated in france where it can Still be found today but it’s probably Best known Um for its position as the kind of black Flagship great variety of argentina So What Is malbec like How is it different to other great Varieties so Malbec wines are usually a deep ruby Color and they’ve got high levels of Tannin So this is because malbec grapes have Quite thick skins So the thick skins result in both deep Color And high tannins So that drying sensation that you often Experience on your tongue on your gums Um On the palate the roof of your mouth on Your palette When it really feels like it’s all being Kind of sucked dry and you have that Sensation to just go Like that after having some red wine

Those are the tannins that you are Tasting if you’re still really Struggling thinking well i’m not sure Whether i’ve had that i don’t really Understand there’s a lot going on in my Mouth when i’m tasting wine what you Should do is really just take a A a grape Peel off the skin and just kind of chew On that skin a little bit and just see What happens in your mouth and you will Really feel those tannins um all over Your mouth and you’ll be able to Distinguish a bit better between you Know what’s the grape and what’s the the Tannin Um so Tannins can be really really really Important in wine making and they’re Certainly very important when we’re Looking at malbec based wines we want to Make sure that these tannins are really Kind of you know they’re maximized and Nice and pleasant they’re dealt with in The right way so that the person Drinking that wine isn’t overwhelmed by Very harsh tannins but also you know They can taste them they know that They’re there they’re adding a bit of Complexity to that wine So the flavors that we associate with Malbec are typically your kind of your Black fruits Mainly blackberry black plum

So these Flavors Derive from the grape itself And we refer to these as primary aromas So um other flavors which you might Expect on some malbecs are clove and Vanilla So these would indicate to us that the Wine has seen oak at some point during That wine making process So the wine may either have been Fermented in oak Or it will have been matured in some Sort of oak vessel Um so the decision of whether that is New oak old oak whether these are very Large vessels whether they’re much Smaller Kind of barrels or something That is all down to your wine maker Um oak is very expensive so that could Be A factor When deciding how much and which oak to Use and if you’re going to use any Yogurt at all So why is oak used typically um oak will Soften any sort of harsh tannins that You’ve got in that wine Which and they’ll make them a bit more Rounded and it will also add a bit of Complexity in terms of that flavor Profile so remember we’ll be getting Those clove vanilla sweet spices um they

All add to the wine and if it’s well Balanced then that can be a really Really pleasant experience in your mouth So any notes that we get from that oak Involvement Or any other kind of wine making Techniques which are used um in the Winery we would deem all of those Flavors Secondary flavor secondary aromas So they really they don’t come from the Grape itself But they come from the decisions that The winemaker uses makes in the winery When he or she decides that they will How they’re going to make that grape Juice Into A wine So not all malbec is oaked it’s really Important to remember that um some are Made in a just really kind of very Fruitful wood style instead Um so malbec is either seen as a single Varietal which is very common um and it Can also be found in blends Typically we might see it blended with You know cabernet sauvignon merlot Cabernet franc betty valdo Lots of those kind of bordeaux varieties Um there are people out there who are Doing weird and wonderful things mixing You know lots of different great Varieties or varieties that we typically

You know haven’t seen very much So yeah definitely keep an eye out for Some More exciting and different um Blends which which i haven’t mentioned So malbec makes a really kind of Full-bodied wine So What is body it’s another question we Get a lot From our students so the body of the Wine is really all about how does it Feel in your mouth Is it light like water or is it quite Heavy and weighty like milk Um if it’s like like water we would say That that wine is a light bodied wine If it’s heavier denser Got a bit of weight to it like milk then You would say that that is a full bodied Wine so malbec we would expect to to Have that kind of texture and that Weight of more like milk than water um It’s really important to say that that Analogy of the water and the milk it has Nothing to do with flavor at all we’re Not talking about dairy flavors or milky Flavors we’re just talking about how it Feels in your mouth how heavy does it Feel And the body Of that wine is really going to be Comprised of a couple of different Things so if there’s any sugar in that

Wine any residual sweetness that’s going To impact the body Um the alcohol levels that will impact The body The level of tannins the level of Acidity it’s all of these things kind of Marrying together Um to create that overall effect of body In that wine So Um the best examples of malbec and by That i mean the ones that have enough Concentration of those primary fruit Aromas Enough acidity and enough kind of good Quality tannins Those will be able to age in bottle Really really well So over time They’ll develop aromas of dried fruit And leather or maybe kind of meaty Flavors And those are really going to add to the Complexity of the wine and those flavors That are developed in the bottle after That final wine has been made we refer To those as tertiary aromas And yeah that complexity that they can Give a wine is absolutely fantastic But it’s really you know worth Mentioning that you can’t just pick Any old wine Um that you pick up in the supermarket And think okay great it’s a malbec i’m

Gonna put it in my cellar and i’m gonna Age it um it has to be a good quality Example that has enough structure and Enough concentration in order to be aged Otherwise you will find that the flavors Just Diminish And you’re left with a kind of very Mediocre flat wine That is just simply past its best so Yeah be careful if you are Aging wine it can be fantastic If you pick the right wines if you don’t Manage to pick the right wines you could Be really really disappointed Okay On to the meaty topic of the history of Malbec Um so we’re going to go all the way back To the middle ages for this So during the middle ages malbec was a Popular great variety in france And It went by a number of different names You might have heard of some of them if Not i’ll just let you kind of geek out On these such as Oxel or cool With two of their names it had loads and Loads of different names because it was So popular in a variety of locations in France It often had a kind of regional name or A local name um

So yeah so it’s it was you know it was It was everywhere in france really Um And Although the the grape really Struggled with some of those damp Conditions it was quite cold it was Quite damp and this would lead to Some of those vines developing a bit of Rot So the vines or the grapes would start To rot and then obviously they can’t Really be used um for wine um So despite that it was still quite Present all over france Um and for you history buffs out there Um it was actually apparently elena of Accutane’s favorite grape variety Um we actually you know wouldn’t bet my Life on that that that is true but it Has been Noted in a couple of different um Historical kind of accounts and so yeah I’m really hoping that that’s That’s actually true Um so in the 19th century um something Absolutely terrible happened and there Was a catastrophic um event which Absolutely devastated the vineyards of Europe um i’m sure some people know what I’m about to talk about now um but an Insect called phylloxera Which was native to north america Um and which feeds on the roots of vines

Was accidentally introduced into europe Um So what happens with philosopher is Philosopher Feeds on those roots and it damages them It then leaves these kind of exposed Open wounds And it means the infection can get into The vines roots So over time we’re talking maybe a year Or two and that vine will slowly become Increasingly Kind of diseased and it will eventually Die Which is really not ideal if you’re Trying to make wine Without the vines you don’t have any Grapes Um And this is something that happened on An absolutely epic scale Um during the 19th century to vines all Across europe so countless vineyards Were wiped out and then they all had to Be replanted And when the replantings were being Planned it was often decided In those areas of france that malbec was Not actually going to be replanted And this was because it was really seen As that slightly sensitive grape variety Which was too susceptible to rot so they Didn’t want to take that risk and so They

Preferred to plant other varieties and Instead Um Other varieties which were maybe a Little bit hardier and which was Slightly better suited to the climate Um so malbec’s presence which had been Really really strong um particularly in Southwest france And you know it used to play this big Role in the bordeaux blends Um but that really dwindled um after all Of these finds were were not replaced And the only region which successfully Retained Malbec as its kind of flagship grape was Girl You can see that in the red section it’s The kind of bright red section on the Map on the left and so you can see that It’s sort of east of bordeaux And to this day malbec remains in its Central position in cowell Um which I think is fantastic So how did malbec get from france to Argentina they are obviously complete Opposite ends of The world Um so on the 17th of april 1853 Malbec vine cuttings were taken from France to south america Where it was introduced into both chile And argentina

So the vines growing in argentina Especially absolutely thrived in the Kind of warm dry conditions that they Were planted in So many of those problems that were Talked about with with the rot Essentially almost completely Disappeared which was really fantastic So from this point forward it really Became a valued you know grape of Argentina But despite its excellent performance it Still faced a lot of difficulties after This point And as the demand for other often International grape varieties really Really grew Um but malbec’s position On the local and international stage has Really been cemented in more recent Decades Where its reputation as argentina’s Flagship grape variety has really become Very solid And it is increasingly exported the main Export markets are kind of towards the Usa number one The uk Um into europe as well it’s you know It’s it’s a really popular grape variety And it’s quite Confident and it’s in its stance um at The moment So let’s look at some key regions

Um so we’re back in the present day now Um and malbec is planted really across The world Where you can find it in the usa you can Find it in south africa you can find it In spain you can find it in loads and Loads of different places Um but we Absolutely do not have enough time to Cover every single location where malbec Can be grown um across the world so We’re just going to look at a couple of Key areas and we’ll try to cover off Most most of those So let’s start with mendoza So mendoza is responsible for producing Approximately 70 Of argent argentina’s wine That’s absolutely huge um so it’s no Surprise that we hear a lot about Mendoza especially with malbec it’s a Really popular um Popular area Um mendoza can produce a real kind of Range of different um quality styles and And Grape Styles of malbec Um and we will have a look at a couple Of different ones here so you will see Northern and eastern mendoza Which are shown in green and in yellow On the map These places are best known for your

Kind of higher volume inexpensive easy Drinking styles Whereas in central mendoza which is Shown a bit smaller it’s shown in red on The map It’s got a much longer production History and is home to many of the most Famous producers So within central mendoza the luhan de Cruyo department in particular has a Reputation producing very very fine Malware it is shown on the map you’ll Just have to find the little arrow Towards it And so this sub region lies around 900 To 1100 meters altitude um as it’s Located kind of in the foothills of the Andes which to the west Um this altitude means that the grapes Have a really long ripening season and An opportunity to develop some really Nice black fruit flavors The altitude also really helps those Grapes to retain their acidity This area is home to some very old Malbec vines which it’s really well Known for So old vines tend to produce less fruit But the fruit that they do produce tends To be really Highly concentrated Which can in turn help to produce great Quality Very concentrated wines

Which sell for a premium price Um so these wines will be intense They’ll be soft they’ll be rounded and They will be delicious So the uco valley um which is shown in Blue on your map is also quite high up You can see we are you know almost in The andes we’re in the foothills of the Andes here Um and the wines produced here will Typically be really elegant they’ll be Refined And then in addition to those kind of Blackberry and black plum aromas you’ll Also get some floral notes and that is Because of that elevation um it just Means that those aromas that develop in The grape that are slightly more Delicate more floral they will have the Chance to develop there as well You can see um in the picture on the Right um you can see a vineyard there With the andes in the background Beautiful photo love it i’d actually Quite like to be there right now and not Stuck in london Um so the southern province as well is Probably worth mentioning it’s also Shown on that map so we’re down in the Purple section here It doesn’t have quite the same Reputation as some of the other parts of Mendoza And we see a lot of blending of grape

Varieties here So again possibly with those other Bordeaux varieties that we mentioned Earlier Um it’s an area which also suffers Really badly from hail storms So hail is something which affects the Whole of the mendoza region And For me coming from england it took me a Little while to understand why hail was Such a big issue To me Hail stones are like At the biggest the size of a pea in England i don’t think you would get any Bigger than that and so i was a bit Confused when everyone started making Such a big deal of hail oh yeah the The hillstones in in mendoza are Absolutely colossal you have um Hailstones you know larger than the size Of golf balls that just fall Continuously and it is absolutely crazy They can rip off branches of the vine They can destroy any new shoots they can Break open the skins of grapes which Lets infection come in you know it is it Can be absolutely catastrophic um the Devastation that they can um that they Can make So What Um

What producers can do um which is done Quite a lot in in mendoza is to Um They’ll use nets to cover their vines And this doesn’t block any sunlight for The vines it’s really good but it does Really protect them from those hail Storms Um okay so if we move a bit outside of Mendoza um if we go north we hit the Kind of san juan province which is also An important area for malbec again with Quite a range of qualities and styles Being produced And then if we go even further north of San juan we get to lavioh province Do not confuse this with la la vie or Her in spain um it is not the same place Obviously we’re in a different continent Here and the way to tell the two apart On a label is that we often see that Argentinian one being called la rioja Argentina um on the label So hopefully you should be able to just Flip that around and just you know have Have a little read at the back of the Bottle and you should be able to work Out Where that one is from um So let’s move across to france And Let’s have a look at carol again so why Argentinian malbec is often quite fruit Forward it’s quite approachable

Call is famous for a really different Style of malbec Here we can expect high tannin Quite a lot of oak intense dark berry Fruit Cedar And When matured we get a lot of kind of Leather and earth so these wines often Benefit from age and oak to soften those Tannins which would otherwise Potentially be a little bit harsh Um so girl styles are sometimes Described as a slightly more kind of Savory Style Um And the really good quality examples can Age very very well and they become Really complex and delicious So malbec pairings If you are cracking open a bottle of Wine tonight What should you pair your mouth work With So some suggestions from me Um How about some blue cheese so the high Tannins the full flavors and the acidity Of this wine means that it pairs really Really well with blue cheese If you’re not fan of blue cheese how About some lean red meat Again those high tannins that intense

Fruit flavor it will match the intensity Of the red meat flavors and neither the Wine nor the meat are going to kind of Overshadow each other Um Any vegans out there i’ve got something For you too um some mushrooms so Mushrooms are what we class as kind of Umami flavor And i think it works really well because It brings out those savory notes in both The food and wine and it can be Absolutely delicious to be honest Most savory Dishes will probably go quite well with Malbec i know that’s a big Generalization what you really want to Be doing is avoiding Sweet things because the sweetness of Your food is going to make those high Tannins Really really austere it’s gonna make Them quite bitter And it may not be very pleasant at all Um For most people obviously everyone has Different taste buds and some people Like weird mixes and but yeah we’ve got A lot of different things that will go Really really well with malbec and most Of them are very salty So thank you uh everyone for listening To me it is now your chance to ask your Questions so i’m just going to have a

Look at the Q a Box Um Oh here we go okay first question Already answered that one about what Kind of food pairings Um Let me just have a look at these So why is malbec better known from Argentina than france where it Originated Is it fair to say that argentina Expresses it better oh Meaty question i like it um Why is malbec better known for argentina I think that it is purely on the vast Scale that it is it’s grown in argentina And it’s really seen as that flagship Variety Um i think it’s really clear from the Labeling what you are drinking it can be Quite a kind of consistent um Great variety in that if someone who Doesn’t know that much about wine They might not know that cao Is malbec Um they Might have not have any idea what that’s Going to taste like whereas if they can See malbec on the label mendoza malbec They might go for that one i think Certainly some of the popularity of the Kind of more bulk wine is definitely

Down to that clarity of labeling Consistency of product Um i think that Um The yeah that question about is it a Better expression i i would say Neither are better than the other They’re just two very very different Styles and it’s a brilliant example of How Your kind of environment and how you Make the wine can be so you can take the Same grape variety and it can be Completely different when it’s grown in One place than when it’s grown in Another you know you’ve got a slightly Different climate you’ve got different Aspects you’ve got different exposure to Sun is the sun like stronger is it Weaker um how are they going to deal With that wine they are just two Completely separate styles and far bit From me to say which one is better or Worse i hope i’ve successfully wiggled Out of that question there Um So Let me just have a look Um Hold on So the malbec that was kept in france Was it replanted with the original Rootstock So

Most likely no and again this could be Something that um that there will likely Be exceptions too i’m sure because there Are always exceptions we should never Answer Categorically yes or no but i would Imagine that the malbec was probably Grafted and certainly the malbec today Would be grafted onto American fine root stock so the american Fine root stocks are resistant to Phylloxera and what happens is the Phylloxera kind of goes in and when it Starts to feed on those roots It the the wine The vine excretes a really sticky Residue that bungs up the mouth of the Insect so it can’t feed on it so what They would tend to do would be to Graft The malbec Onto the roots of a an american vine That is resistant to The pest Um so i would imagine that that is what They did straight after the the kind of Pandemic the phylloxera Pandemic um i think we’ve got room for One last quick question Um So it is the malbec Uh is malbec in argentina oaked I would say there is a mixture there is A mixture of oaked and unoaked

I would say that’s probably more oaked Than not but you will definitely find Examples of both um we can see New oak being used quite a lot on malbec Because it is kind of intense enough to To kind of match those additional Vanilla and not get overwhelmed by those Extra flavors that the oak is going to Impart we also see a lot of malbec that Is with slightly older oak or larger oat Barrels where you’re not gonna get as Many of those oak flavors But you’re still gonna Get that softening of the tannins so yes Lots of the lots of the argentinian Malbec is oaked but also you can find Examples that are not Okay we’ve got a lot more questions but We’re not going to have any more time I’m afraid and so i’m just going to wrap Up so thank you everyone for your time Today i’m not sure that we’ve had Enough time to completely go into Everything and it’s always the way um But if you would like to know any more About the wset courses or find a local Provider please visit our where to study Page where you can access the details of Our 800 program providers all across the World we’re across 70 over 70 different Countries and so you will hopefully be Able to find something really local to You if you can’t we also offer online Courses and so please do get in touch

With us Um this Webinar is going to be hosted on our Youtube channel wsct youtube channel um So you can go there and have a look at Similar um similar webinars for Loads of different great varieties there Are videos on spirits and sake as well And so do go and check it out and thank You all so much for your time today And i hope to see you soon