I am not sure whether it is an in-built Yorkshire stubbornness that prevents me from complying, but I refuse to be told which grapes to write about on any particular day.
As for these “special” days, there is actually a calendar listing grapes and days, all of which I shall ignore. If you wish me to commemorate International Xinomavro Day on November 1, then just let me know and I’ll think about it.
However, having purposely missed Malbec Day, there is a lot to be said for enjoying Malbec at this time of year. We are at the start of the barbecue season and Malbec is perfect with meat.
If you have forgotten where you left your barbecue at the end of last summer it is probably that heap of rusting metal, loaded with plant pots and half a bag of compost at the end of the garden. Well, that’s where ours is. Now we need to spend a weekend trying to remove caked on grime before giving in and buying a new one.
And once the proper good weather arrives and with luck, we are allowed to invite loved ones, friends and neighbours round, then said barbecue will sizzle its way through sausages, steaks and kebabs while I pour the right wines to go with the food.
Malbec is a grape that has benefitted from travel. Originally from the ancient town of Cahors in France where it used to make dark, tannic chewy wines, hence its description as the “black wine of Cahors”, it escaped to Bordeaux where a tiny percentage gave structure and depth to a blend.
It was taken to Argentina by a French agronomist in the mid-1800s and settled in well. This was the period when Argentina wanted to appear European. There are some parts of Buenos Aires that could be mistaken for Paris.
Malbec performed well in the warm, sunny vineyards of Mendoza in the western part of this vast country, fed by water running straight off the Andes, and now Argentina has the most extensive Malbec vineyards in the world.
The foothills of these magnificent mountains provide unique sites to develop fabulous grapes. By planting at different altitudes, grapes ripen with varying levels of fruit, flavour and acidity.
When Argentina’s wine burst on to our market a few decades ago the Malbecs were full of chewy black fruit, slightly over baked and often with a touch too much oak.
All that has changed now though as winemakers finesse their work. Malbec has also continued its travels to Chile, Australia, California and New Zealand where winemakers are gradually allowing this flavoursome grape to emerge from blends and stand on its own.
Malbec comes at all prices and qualities, but frankly there are some stunning wines for not a lot of money. Here is my top ten selection.
Buenas Vides Malbec 2019, Argentina, Aldi, £4.49: There are grapes, winemaking, shipping, duty, VAT and a profit margin to be covered by the ridiculously low price of £4.49, so you might think the wine is not up to much, but it is fine. Bright, juicy and with plenty of dark fruit. Perfectly good enough for returning students and Monday to Wednesday suppers.
Cono Sur Bicicleta Malbec 2019, Chile, Morrisons, down from £7.70 to £5.50 until Tuesday: Rush to stock up with this soft, juicy, plum and blackberry filled wine. It will go wonderfully with whatever comes off the barbecue and will happily partner a midweek pizza or shepherd’s pie. Step up to the organic version, also from environmentally conscious Cono Sur, which has a touch more structure and style. Ocado, £9.
Trivento Reserve Malbec 2019, Argentina, Sainsbury’s, £8 down to £6 until Tuesday: Named after the three winds that rattle around the Mendoza region, this is another great value Malbec. Soft, black cherry fruit, with blueberries and a hint of spice. Morrisons also has this same offer.
Fairtrade Irresistible Malbec 2017, Famatina Valley, Argentina, Co-op, £7.50: The Co-op takes Fairtrade very seriously, making sure that money gets right back to the communities, providing schools and equipment. That makes this a great value wine for everyone, with chunky, dark mulberry fruit and ripe, supple tannins. Team with sausages.
Finest Argentinian Malbec 2019, Tesco, £8: Sourced from top Argentinian producer Catena, this is a lighter style of Malbec, with bags of fruit and easy, smooth tannins.
Classics Malbec 2019, Mendoza, Argentina, Marks & Spencer, £8: Part of the understated but brilliant Classics range of wines from M&S, this is a smooth, juicy wine with raspberry and black cherry fruit, a touch of chocolate and a fresh, food-friendly finish.
Los Olivos Malbec 2020, Zuccardi, Field & Fawcett, £9.95: Seriously good Malbec at a great value price. The grapes come from the up-market Uco Valley where a long, carefully graded slope provides grapes for many top names. This has elegant plum and forest fruit flavours edged with white pepper and a long finish. Drink now or keep for a year or so.
Left Field Malbec 2019, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, York Wines, £13.95: There is only a tiny amount of Malbec in New Zealand but the stony soil and warm climate of the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay is the perfect place to plant it. Light in style, packed with blackberry and spice, this goes wonderfully with rare roast beef.
Zuccardi Q Malbec 2019, Valle de Uco, Argentina, Majestic, £15.99, down to £13.99 on a mix-six deal: This wine demonstrates just how far Malbec has developed in recent years. There is elegance, restraint and balance in the glass while still packing dark plum fruit, a touch of raspberries and a layer of cinnamon spice.
Luigi Bosca Malbec Selección de Vistalba 2018, Argentina, Waitrose, £16.99: This comes from one of the most magnificent vineyards in Argentina. At around 1,000 metres up in the foothills of the Andes, days are sunny and warm but nights are definitely chilly, so this is fragrant with violets, blueberry and raspberry fruit with a light toasting on the finish. A Sunday lunch wine.