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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > VARIETAL CLASSICS: Argentine Malbec

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Varietal Classics: Argentinian Malbec

Three Golds was impressive, but doesn’t tell the full story, with our tasters puzzlingly – and atypically – underwhelmed by much of what they saw


Last year this was unquestionably one of the categories of the competition, delivering wines of generosity and suppleness at impressive prices. This year the tasters were not unhappy with what they found, but they were less excited than in 2012.

Was the problem over-pricing? Or ambition oustripping ability? Or too much oak? All of which, after all, have been problems in the past.

Oddly, no. It seemed more that an indefinable something had been lost. Maybe the wines weren’t quite the value for money they used to be. Maybe in the pursuit of a bit more elegance, some of what made them so good in the first place, has been turned down a notch too far.

Either way, the wines didn’t quite catch the imagination in the way they sometimes have.

‘They just didn’t have that generosity of fruit that we expect,’ said Jeremie Guiraud, of Lords of the Manor. ‘In a lot of them the character of Argentinian Malbec wasn’t there.’

‘I kept waiting for something to jump out at me,’ agreed Le Coq d’Argent’s Olivier Marie. ‘But nothing did.’

Squaring the ‘traditional lushness of fruit’ element with ‘minerality and structure’ looks like becoming the big challenge for Argentina’s winemakers, just as it has been for Australia’s over the past few years.

Interestingly, price is becoming an issue, too. Although Argentina doesn’t suffer from the same Forex issues as Australia and New Zealand, there were suggestions that the feeble state of the pound could be having an impact, with sommeliers struggling to move their price antennae upwards.

‘I was expecting to get OK wines at around the £6 mark, not £7,’ sighed Laura Rhys MS of Hotel TerraVina.

All in all, then, this was not a bad section by any stretch, but it was definitely one in which several minor niggles all came together to create a feeling of having been rather short-changed.

A bit like going to the theatre, having to pay unexpectedly for parking, then getting the understudy rather than the leading lady. The overall experience might be good, but you kind of hoped for more.

That said, three places on the Gold List was the strongest showing of any of the Varietal Classic categories, and two of the Golds, Senetiner and Doña Paula, can feel particularly pleased at their progress, having picked up a Bronze and Silver respectively last year.

‘The middle-priced wines were not that interesting. This was a useful flight rather than an exciting one.’
Miguel Franco Helder, Searcys at the National Portrait Gallery