What is Malbec?
Malbec is a French grape predominantly grown in Argentina and France. It is perhaps the most planted and produced grape varietal in Argentina. Currently two most common regions specializing in Malbec are: Mendoza, Argentina and Cahors France with Chile being the third most popular producer of this varietal. Malbec is a purplish deep color grape with thin skin producing a full bodied red wine with great tannin structure. France is known for a heavier style of Malbec wine from Cahors while the Argentina Malbec is a more softer with great acidity from its high altitude plantings and fuller fresh fruit notes.
Malbec is a fragile grape susceptible to harm dude to climate variations. In its hayday it was planted in over 30 regions of France. Most notable was the Bordeaux region which still to this day makes Malbec one of the grapes for Bordeaux blends (Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Carmenere).
As one of the notable Bordeaux grapes it was once used as a key blending grape in the Bordeaux region. After an unusual frost which wiped out 75% of the Malbec harvest in 1956 the growers of the region went with a different blending grape such as Cab Franc and thus nowadays Malbec is all but gone from the Bordeaux area. In other parts of France Malbec is thriving. In the warmer southern region of Cahors Malbec is the main grape where regional wine laws mandate that at least 70% of wines produced there be made out of Malbec grapes.
However, lets not give France all the glory and recognition for the Malbec grape. True hero here is Argentina. After the decline of Malbec in Bordeaux, France drastically reduced producing Malbec while in Argentina Malbec was sought after as a single stand alone non-blended product. This gave this rich grape a well needed focus and attention. Equaly interesting is the fact that the strain of Malbec growing in Argenitna produce smaller grape clusters and are extinct in France. Pioneering winemakers of Argentina experimented with Malbec production and growth from wine making styles to regional soil experimentation and starting form late 1980s well into the 1990s Malbec saw a well deserved global resurgence. So much so that even Frnench production of Malbec is starting to increase. Neighboring Chille seeing the success of Argentinian Malbec started to plant their own and currently grows 6,000 acres of Malbec as well.
Why did Kareen Wine choose Malbec?
Various reasons made Kareen wine invest in Malbec as our first commercial varieteal. Although 2018 is our company’s first year in sales we have been experimenting with winemaking since 2010. Initially when faced with the queation of what to produce we immediately understood we don’t want to jump into the oversaturated market of California Cabernet Sauvignon (this does not mean we will not in the future). Over the years we have experimented with Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre but our aha! moment came in 2013 when we were introduced to Malbec through an amazing grower in our region. California Malbec is a rare item with only half of one percent of all California plantings being Malbec. As fate would have it our 2013 home made Malbec yielded amazing results and our appetite for California Malbec increased further.
What makes Kareen Malbec special?
Coming off of our 2013 Malbec we wanted to preserve all the elements of our success and add more to our first commercially made 2016 Kareen Malbec which we released this year. We added more control to the process and introduced new French oak barrels to our aging in 2016 Malbec, making this vintage our best yet. With silky soft tannins, young ripe fruit aromas and a vanilla finish, our 2016 Kareen Malbec is a true representative of the California terroir. At 13.5% alcohol this style of Malbec echoes to the European styles of wines and moves our brand in the direction of smooth sophisticated wines as a contrast to the high octane “fruit-bombs” we are used to here in California. This vintage is a truly approachable wine for all wine lovers and it is a great testament of an amazing start of our venture.
Front label of our 2016 Malbec.
Mendoza, Argenitna. Global epicenter of Malbec production.
Cahors region in green at top of map. This is the predominant area of Malbec production in South West of France.
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