Toast the winemakers of Argentina’s signature varietal who are practicing natural, organic winemaking methods.
By Kelly A. Magyarics
“Sustainable” has been a wine industry buzzword for the past few years, and Malbec is a grape that consumers just can’t seem to get enough of. The first ever Malbec World Day was held on April 17—the same week as Earth Day (or is it Earth Week, now?) While it may be a coincidence, it’s also serendipitous for the two events to fall in the same week, since many Argentine wineries have been practicing sustainable farming methods for many years.
Argentina’s wine regions benefit from a sunny, dry climate that makes their vineyards among the healthiest in the world. The low amount of rainfall prevents winemakers from having to spray with dangerous pesticides and herbicides to combat rot and other diseases.
A handful of Argentinean winemakers are truly walking the walk. This weekend, why not raise a delicious glass of the country’s signature varietal to the producers who are working to keep their vineyards—and the earth—as natural, organic and healthy as possible:
2010 Bodini Malbec ($13)
Bodini is a sustainable and socially responsible line of wine. Winemaker José Lovaglio is committed to only sourcing fruit from sustainably farmed, high elevation Mendoza vineyards. The vineyard team tends the vines using only the minimum amount of non-organic products necessary and extensive cover crop protects the soils and prevents erosion. 100% drip irrigation is used rather than the more traditional flood irrigation to better control usage of this valuable resource.
The 2010 Bodini Malbec has ripe dark cherries on the nose, and spicy red and black fruits on the palate. It’s got grippy tannins and a long finish—try it with a rib eye steak or baby back ribs.
2008 Lunta Malbec ($20)
Santiago Mayorga, Lunta’s winemaker and vineyard manager, is currently in the process of certifying his first organic farm, but he is already committed to managing Lunta’s vineyards in an ethical and sustainable way. He uses significant cover crops to improve soil structure, increase water holding capacity, and promote biodiversity. A compost of organic material is applied to increase the fertility of the soil and sustain beneficial biological and organic life. He avoids the use of herbicides to only the bare minimum and uses only organic compounds when it is required.
The 2008 Lunta Malbec is intense on the nose, with aromas of raspberry, plum and blackberry. On the palate, it’s a lighter-style of Malbec, great with pork tenderloin, roast chicken or baby lamb chops.
2008 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec ($25)
The cornerstone of Susana Balbo’s philosophy in the vineyard is “all that belongs to the vineyard stays in/gets back to the vineyard”. Dominio del Plata winery adheres to a strict code of sustainable agriculture standards. They avoid the use of pollutants that harm the environment and deplete soils, such as toxic-synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and GMO’s. Drip irrigation is used instead of flood irrigation, allowing them to better control this rare and important resource in this region. Compost and cover grasses are used to fertilize and enrich the soils, prevent erosion, and produce organic matter. Grapes are hand-harvested and they use minimal machinery in the vineyards to save energy and prevent compacting of the soil. The winery has changed to lighter glass bottles resulting in a reduction of the weight of glass bottles by 17% and a smaller carbon footprint. Waste water is treated in the winery and recycled back to water the vineyards and trees of the estate.
The nose of the 2008 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec offers floral aromas (mainly violets) as well as black cherries and blackberries, along with a touch of oak. On the palate, it’s got toasty vanilla from the oak, plum and bittersweet chocolate, ripe and rich with a long finish. It’s very versatile, pairing with red and white meats and even pasta.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on www.twitter.com/kmagyarics.