We reveal all the medal-winners from this year’s Global Malbec Masters, which saw wines from a range of nations pick up top scores, from Chile to Argentina, Turkey to South Africa, with some of 2021’s most impressive samples hailing from south west France.
OVER THE years we’ve been running The Global Malbec Masters, we’ve witnessed a number of changes taking place among the wines made from this fashionable grape. Many of these have concerned the Malbecs from Argentina, and primarily Mendoza, where we’ve seen a gradual shift from almost over-ripe styles, sometimes overlaid with sweet barrel-sourced flavours, to brighter wines with less overt oak influence.
Such was the pendulum swing a few years ago, we even saw some slightly green-tasting Argentine Malbecs, with notes of celery leaf, or spicy rocket-like characters, doubtless due to a move to earlier harvesting leading to some underripe berries getting into the ferments.
In 2021 I’m pleased to say Argentine Malbec appears to have reached an attractive middle ground, with wines generally featuring fully ripe grapes, but not dried fruit, and while the style veers towards something fresher and lighter, the flavours are not green.
Meanwhile, we’ve seen other developments take place in the Malbecs from other nations. In past competitions, we’ve seen a real rise in the quality of wines from Chile, which tend not to be as intensely fruity as the Malbecs from Argentina, but offer an appealing spice and tannic structure, as well as an excellent blending component for Cabernet and Syrah.
This year it was another nation that came into the spotlight – France, and above all Cahors, an area in the southwest of the country that’s thought to be the native home of the grape.
Despite this connection, Cahors has not really benefitted from the fashionable status of Malbec, which has centred on Argentine expressions, with their concentrated black fruit and firm tannins, as well as a strong association with steak – Argentine Malbec is deemed the ideal partner for marbled meat.
Why was Cahors not caught up in the Malbec craze? For a start, few knew that this part of France, where the wines are sold by their regional designation rather than grape, was a source of Malbec, let alone the historical home of the variety.
Today, these facts are slowly being recognised. More importantly, the wines from Cahors are getting much better, with clean, ripe, juicy fruit, well-judged oak, fine tannins, and a distinctive taste that’s more savoury than the Malbecs from Argentina, and in terms of texture, a little tauter, and drier.
We’ve picked up on the quality of Cahor Malbecs from Château Lagrézette in the past, but this year, it was the wines of George Vigouroux that shone, particularly Crocus, his joint venture brand with international wine consultant Paul Hobbs –a label to shine a new light on the reds of Southwest France.
Nevertheless, a producer from Argentina picked up more top scores than any other. That was Catena, which has taken Malbec to new heights, not just when compared with the competition from its own nation, or continent, but relative to what the rest of the world is doing with this variety.
Indeed, Catena seems to be providing the most powerful argument for an upwards revision of Malbec’s quality potential, and an improvement of its global reputation – and, to add controversy to this compliment, even provide a reason to elevate the grape to ‘noble’ status alongside the likes of Cabernet.
- Please read on to see the results in full from this year’s competition, as well as our judges’ comments, and further information about The Global Malbec Masters.
Unoaked 100% Malbec
|Domaine Bousquet||Cameleon Organic Malbec||Uco Valley||Argentina||2021||Gold|
|Domaine Bousquet||Organic Malbec||Uco Valley||Argentina||2021||Silver|
|Domaine Bousquet||Lalande Organic Malbec||Uco Valley||Argentina||2021||Silver|
Oaked 100% Malbec
|Domaine Bousquet||Gaia Organic Malbec||Uco Valley||Argentina||2020||Silver|
Patricia Stefanowicz MW
“Most of the wines came from South America with Argentina dominating the ‘harvest’ of medals, especially of top silvers and golds. Chilean wines can be good when properly ripe and we found a few more-thanrespectable examples, showing good balance and concentration.
“Brisk acidity, well-controlled tannins and appropriate use of oak with high alcohol less evident are all attractive features in the wines judged. Even at the end, not too much palatefatigue. Other positive aspects of the tasting were the blends of Malbec and other, mostly Bordelais, varieties.
Many of these blends were succulent and aromatic, showing how well Malbec can work with other grapes. In particular, adding extra dimension and filling the sometimes slightly hollow mid-palate make the wines seem more complete. “At the stratospheric price levels, many of the wines are stunningly delicious: great fruit, appropriate oak accents, bright acidity and velvettextured tannins, layered, complex wines, worth every pound.”
David Round MW
“The overall standard was higher than I expected – fewer faults, better balance and more character. I found it more varied than I expected, and in a good way. As ever, some wines had freshness and balance, others were richer, more blockbuster in character.
“In the past, the former were the best examples at the cheaper end and the latter were the best examples at the top end.
“In fact, it was pretty much a continuum of increasing richness, oak influence and alcohol levels as the price increased, which can get boring. But now, we see more ethereal wines succeeding at the top end.”
About The Global Malbec Masters
With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, The Global Malbec Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world.
The 2021 competition was judged over one day in November at 28–50
Wine Workshop & Kitchen in South Kensington, employing experienced judges. The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Malbec Master. This report features the medal winners only.