Argentina = Malbec

There is no doubt that Argentina’s flagship variety is Malbec.  According to

Dracaena Wines
photo courtesy of

Eric Asimov, “When consumers think of Malbec, only one country comes to mind: Argentina”. Although it originated in South West France, where it is called Cot, the most acreage of Malbec in any country is in Argentina. When choosing a Malbec from Argentina you can expect to find Deeply coloured, spicily rich with an exuberant juiciness and has as a trademark an almost velvety texture”. (Jancis Robinson) These characteristics are what led to Malbec being nicknamed “the black wines of Cahors.” Malbec is known to adapt quickly to various terroirs.

With over 95,000 acres of vineyards planted across the country, Argentina is by far the largest producer of Malbec with Mendoza being the primary region. In fact, over 82,000 (86%) of all Malbec vineyards in Argentina are planted in Mendoza. In order to protect the name of the area and the quality of the wine produced, Malbec wines have Controlled Denomination of Origin (DOC).

Achaval Ferrer = Malbec

From the very beginning the winery has held strong to a phrase that describes us: Achaval-Ferrer is above all, a group of friends.

Today after many years have passed we try our very best every day to honor that phrase. As a group we continue to grow together, pursuing the daily challenge of being the best Argentine wine year after year.

In 1995, Santiago Achával, Roberto Cipresso, Manuel Ferrer and Tiziano Siviero came together to share a dream.  Three years later, that dream became a reality when they purchased Diamante Vineyard and decided to use technology to guarantee exceptional wine. Drip irrigation, computerized weather stations and clonal selections led the way for superior vine management. Using just one acre of each Malbec and Merlot, they managed the vines with their philosophy- shoot and leaf thinning and decreased yields to get increased fruit quality.

In March, 1999 two tanks of wine were made from this “experiment.” While the wine aged in barrel, they hunted around for a new vineyard site. On one exploratory drive, Santiago Achával tells a story that to his left was the Tunuyán River and to the right was an overrun vineyard complete with weeds, broken head posts and abandoned half collapsed adobe caretaker cottage. 

A few days later Santiago received a phone call from Roberto asking if he had faith in him. Santiago replied yes. So Roberto told him, he had tasted the grapes of a vineyard that he knows will make world-class wine, “a wine of character; of terroir.” Since it was not being cared for, the vineyard was being sold for the price of the land but they needed to sign the paperwork immediately. Santiago agreed and they signed the final deed. Santiago couldn’t believe his eyes when Roberto drove him to that very same vineyard. After tasting the grapes, there were no doubts. That 1999 Finca Altamira was the first five-star award for any wine in Argentina. 

With that same mindset, they hunted for more vineyards and in 2000 Bella Vista and Mirador vineyards were acquired. As Santiago says, this was the how the trio of single vineyard, old vine, low yield, expressive wines was born.

Since then Achaval-Ferrer wines have seen some extraordinary scores. In 2004, Altamira Vineyard received 96 points from Wine Spectator, the highest score for a South American wine in history. In 2011, 2009 Altamira Vineyard gets 99 points in Wine Advocate. 2010 Bella Vista Vineyard is selected among the WorldWide TOP 10 by Wine Spectator. A unique and historic award for a Latin American wine. Most recently, in 2013, thanks to the “Fincas” line, Altamira Vineyard (1). Mirador Vineyard (2) and Bella Vista Vineyard (3) reach the Top 3 Wine Spectator ranking of Argentinian wines each one with 96, 96, and 95 points respectively.

Achaval Ferrer produces 3 wine tiers: single vineyard Fincas, Quimera: Bordeaux-style blend and Mendoza wines: Malbec & Cab Sauv

It’s All in the Genes

Malbec’s parents have been determined to be Magdelaine Noire des Charentes (same as Merlot) and Prunelard, an old variety from Haut-Garrone and Tarn in the Central Pyrenees. Magadelaine’s genes provide the early ripeness in Malbec while the Prunelard bestows the deep color and tannins. 

September with #WineStudio

#winestudio is a free, interactive wine education program conducted via social media. If you have a Twitter and Facebook account, you can participate! 

Each month we select a unique wine-based (or cider) topic to explore from a social, political, cultural, geographical and of course a wine-oriented perspective. Bloggers and wine lovers from across the world join us every session to discuss the culture of wine.

September was Malbec month sponsored by Achaval Ferrer and oh what an educational month it was.

The four-week discussion was intense and educational. Here are some of my biggest take aways.

  • Mendoza is the ideal place for sustainability, great sunlight, few insect and fungal problems
  • Malbec is credited as “the best translator of the character of the soil,” according to Santiago
  • Both Quimera and Finca are natural. Achaval Ferrer drops more than 50% for old vines to produce a natural low yield
  • ’14 Mendoza Malbec uses grapes grown from 3,150 to 3,600 ft
  • Achaval Ferrer farms 330 acres with 4 varietals (Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)
  • Lower appellations give muscle and higher ones freshness
  • Old vines are like icebergs – lots happening above, but a heck of a lot more underneath!
  • Each vineyard has different soil: Medrano has deep clay beds, Lujan, deep gravel. Gualtallary: limestone and big rocks
  • Achavel Ferrer prunes big time! At veraison they drop too green and too black fruit so they even the ripeness. This allows early harvest and better acidity and balance.
  • Huge diurnal temperatures: 15 degrees C, the 2-3 months prior to harvest; second only to Paso Robles 

Malbec World Day

Dracaena Wines, World Malbec Day
photo courtesy of Schoolhouse Rock

April 17 was chosen by Wines of Argentina for the celebration of Malbec World Day. It was on this day in 1853, a bill for the foundation of a Quinta Normal and a School of Agriculture was sent to the Provincial Legislature. With support from Mendoza’s Governor Pedro Pascual Segura, the House of Representatives signed it into law.

These efforts allowed for the creation of Quinta Normal and was a turning point for Argentine winemaking thus providing a pivotal moment in the success of Malbec in Argentina.

Be sure to  mark your calendars for the next World Malbec Day. More importantly get yourself a bottle of Achaval Ferrer Malbec and see for yourself why this grape varietal is celebrated! 


Disclosure of wine sample submission:  I received these wines at no cost from Achaval Ferrer and Protocol Wine Studio. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are entirely my own.

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    1. I can honestly say I don’t think of any other producer when I think Malbec and Argentina

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