Sunday (17th April) was World Malbec Day. Also known as côt in its French homeland, malbec crossed the Atlantic over 150 years ago, in particular to Argentina (which accounts for 75 per cent of the world’s output). There it proved to be perfectly attuned to the lofty Mendoza region and the consistent warm, dry climate enjoyed there. Small pockets, however, are also grown elsewhere in the southern hemisphere and along America’s Pacific coast.
Done well, malbec’s wines are soft, smooth, juicy, perfumed and spicy with ripe damson and raspberry fruit. With ageing, black-fruit characteristics tend to emerge – as they do in examples from the variety’s surviving French stronghold, Cahors. Wines from thereabouts are normally more textured, meaty and even rustic.
To sample the grape’s benchmark style at a bargain price, try South Africa’s 2015 Southern Point Reserve Malbec (£5 at Asda) with its light, red cherry and red plum fruit, minimal tannin, a touch of acidity supplemented by vanilla, all-spice and a mildly sweet finish.
Moving up from everyday drinking, Argentina’s dark and dense 2013 Angulo Innocenti Malbec (£14.95 at Drinkmonger, Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh and in Pitlochry) is a good option. It has classic soft loganberry, cocoa and liquorice components, but turbo-charges them with intense elderberry and prune flavours and sharp acidity – yet only gentle tannin.
Drinkmonger also provides an enjoyable French version from winemaker Sebastien Dauliac. Smooth, rich and dark 2012 Domaine Capelanel La Rangée du Curé Cahors (£14.95 at Drinkmonger) has more savoury texture and chewier tannins than the Mendoza example but also has floral touches and gentle spiciness beneath its oaky, bramble and blaeberry fruit.
Predictably, given its name, 2014 Te Awa Left Field Hawkes Bay Malbec (£16.50 at www.thenewzealandcellar.co.uk but Scotland’s Luvians and Vino have earlier vintages) is different. Its acidity is sharper, its texture and tannin is lighter while its fruit is bright redcurrant and red plum – albeit with a savoury, almost earthy, edge.
2015 Mesta Organic Old Vine Tempranillo
Uclés, Spain, 14 per cent
Reflecting the differences organic operations can bring, this dark, dense tempranillo has firm graphite and mineral touches beneath its
black-cherry fruit. Similarly, its tannin is slightly firmer than the current vogue but everything is lightened by vanilla, cinnamon and acidic freshness.
£6 instead of £8 until 25 April at M&S
2014 Exquisite Collection Blanquette de Limoux
Languedoc, France, 12 per cent
Blanquette de Limoux claims to be France’s first sparkling wine and continues to delight and surprise. Here it adds savoury – almost saline – edges to its red and green apple fruit yet still delivers lively sherbet freshness behind those slightly lazy bubbles. Decidedly
£7.99 at Aldi
• For regular recommendations on good value wines go to www.midweekwines.co.uk