Full-bodied Malbec vs Light Malbec: Which do you prefer?

There are two clearly defined styles of Malbec. Let’s find out what they are and which ones to taste in order to get to know them.

Much is said about the different styles of Malbec and their adaptability to different regions and growing conditions. Nevertheless, when considering the different options available in the market today, we can reduce the choice down to two styles, regardless of origin: the classical Malbec which is full-bodied and mellow and the more modern, light and fluid Malbec.  These two versions embrace both the history of the wine and its future, as a red wine sparking interest in international markets.

On the one hand is the version we know best, the wines which emerged when the Argentine industry decided to back this varietal and show its’ potential to the world.  These are the wines which, born as newcomers, have become classics in the market and represent the most conservative definition of a Malbec. They have a voluptuous and expressive style.  Aromatically, they recall ripe berries and jams, while to the palate they offer a good body and structure with strong tannins. This ABC version of the Malbec is defined by its ageing in the barrel and its concentration and is enjoyed by many consumers worldwide. Although critics have argued that these wines have a limited future, sales are proving the opposite and demonstrate the continued popularity of the potent mellow Malbec.

On the other hand are the more fluid modern wines, product of experimentation and the knowledge that the winemakers have of the varietal today and its performance in each region.  These are reds that seek to express their origin above and beyond the wine making and aim at using the purer versions of the varietal. Among their aromas you can clearly appreciate red berries with some traces of herbs and flowers. The big difference, however, is on the palate: they are fluid and linear, avoiding any sensation of sweetness and displaying firm and friendly tannins.  To achieve this, the vintners use earlier harvests and a shorter time in the barrel or otherwise oak barrels of second or third use. This is a style that is being increasingly adopted by all the wineries and in many cases it also suits the more classical Malbecs.  At the end of the day, this method does not seek to replace the old ones but rather to establish a new trend.

Artisan Malbec: Why do you think Argentina adopted the Malbec?

Fabricio Portelli: When Argentina reached out to go and discover the rest of the world we realised that we had so much Malbec in our terroir that we weren’t exploiting. This is when international consultants accidentally realised that instead of competing against wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay it would be best to compete with a unique and new wine like Malbec. This is where its potential was and this is exactly how it happened.

Artisan Malbec: Malbec is now celebrated around the world – which country do you think is going to surprise us next?

Fabricio Portelli: Chile, without doubt. Every year there is an increasing amount of Malbec wine and it offers its own uniqueness because of its maritime climate viticulture as opposed to Argentina’s desert climate viticulture. Also because Chile is so close to us, it is easy for them to come here on a regular basis and learn about our progress and developments in this wine variety.

Artisan Malbec: Do you think Malbec has reached its maximum potential, either in Argentina or worldwide?

Fabricio Portelli: Up until now it was all about the variety of the grape, but now the first ‘terroir wines’ from Malbec have started to appear. With time these will undoubtedly give Malbec a finer, long-lived wholeness, which will then be compared against the best wines in the world. Having said that Malbec has already proved another dimension when combined with other wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

“Consumers always associate Malbec with Argentina and what characterises us like tango, soccer, beautiful landscapes and our meat. Malbec reflects all of what Argentina is made of”