Malbec: France’s gift to Argentina

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A CELEBRATION of the Malbec wine varietal led guests on April 19 to pick their poison: red meat, or red wine.

Slabs of Argentine roast beef were laid out for guests to consume at Makati’s Buddha Bar, washed down with glasses of Malbec from wine importers in Manila. Around 50 wines were on offer.

This was part of the 8th edition of Malbec World Day, the international celebration of Argentina’s icon, which takes place on April 17 every year. This year the celebration was called “Malbec Argentino: You Know Me and You Don’t.”

The Malbec grape was brought to Argentina from France in the 19th century by Aimé Pouget, a French agronomist who was hired by Argentine President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. By this time, most of the vineyards in Europe had been ravaged by the phylloxera plague, killing off vines probably hundreds of years old. The difference in terroir between France and Argentina led to a divergence in the taste of the wines made from the grape. Malbec is now the flagship grape associated with Argentina, which is only proper, since the Argentine government declared wine as the country’s national liquor in 2010.

Argentina is the world’s fifth largest wine-producing country. The Malbec wine varietal displays a punchy fruitiness punctuated with some spice, reminiscent of pepper; a certain oakiness, with a light floral aroma. Said Flavio Chomnalez, the Head of the Commercial Section of the Argentine Embassy about growing the grape, “Let’s just say we have a special environment for it.”

As for the beef, he said that Argentine beef was mostly exported to Europe, but, “We are developing new markets for our beef… now we want to develop other markets because there are people who want to consume [more] beef.”

According to him, wine and beef are tied to the Argentine way of life. A man is supposed to know how to make an asado (a form of barbecue) when he comes of age.

As for the wine, “Wine represents a part of our culture. Malbec is our grape. It’s a French grape in origin, but we adopted it.” — JLG