The country is claiming its own grapeby Barry Smith / February 18, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
Is there such a thing as a national grape? There are certainly international grapes like Chardonnay or Merlot, which are grown all over the globe. There are grapes like Furmint in Hungary, Pinotage in South Africa and Glena from which we get Italy’s Prosecco, that are all but exclusive to those countries. But then there are the adopted grapes, raised in another country where they behave quite differently, and where local wine growers will say they have found their true home.
Perhaps the first example was the Sauvignon Blanc of New Zealand. Transported from the Loire valley, the grape found greater ripeness and took on tropical flavours alongside its characteristic primary aromas. Soon, drinkers were ordering New Zealand Sauv-ignon Blanc, looking for the tropical flavours. Some concerned French growers started aiming for the richer style. Others kept their nerve, and eventually some New Zealand growers started producing more precisely delineated French-style wines.
The other example of successful adoption is the Malbec grape in Argentina. Although originally from France, Malbec, or Cot as it was known, found its best expression on the sides of the Andes in the range running from Luján de Cuyo, just outside the city of Mendoza, all the way to the Uco Valley.
There are other expressions of Malbec in Argentina, such as those produced in Patagonia. These are very different wines: more angular and lacking the fullness of Malbecs from Mendoza, but gaining some bite through the tart blackberry fruit of grapes grown in this cooler climate.
Nowadays, in wine-drinking circles, Malbec is synonymous with Argentina, but neighbouring Uruguay is now claimi…