The medallists from The Global Malbec Masters 2021

We reveal all the medal-win­ners from this year’s Glo­bal Mal­bec Mas­ters, which saw wines from a ran­ge of nations pick up top sco­res, from Chi­le to Argen­ti­na, Tur­key to South Afri­ca, with some of 2021’s most impres­si­ve sam­ples hai­ling from south west France.

OVER THE years we’ve been run­ning The Glo­bal Mal­bec Mas­ters, we’ve wit­nes­sed a num­ber of chan­ges taking pla­ce among the wines made from this fashio­na­ble gra­pe. Many of the­se have con­cer­ned the Mal­becs from Argen­ti­na, and pri­ma­rily Men­do­za, whe­re we’ve seen a gra­dual shift from almost over-ripe sty­les, some­ti­mes over­laid with sweet barrel-sour­ced fla­vours, to brigh­ter wines with less overt oak influence.

Such was the pen­du­lum swing a few years ago, we even saw some slightly green-tas­ting Argen­ti­ne Mal­becs, with notes of celery leaf, or spicy roc­ket-like cha­rac­ters, doubtless due to a move to ear­lier har­ves­ting lea­ding to some unde­rri­pe berries get­ting into the ferments.

In 2021 I’m plea­sed to say Argen­ti­ne Mal­bec appears to have reached an attrac­ti­ve midd­le ground, with wines gene­rally fea­tu­ring fully ripe gra­pes, but not dried fruit, and whi­le the sty­le veers towards something fresher and ligh­ter, the fla­vours are not green.

Meanwhi­le, we’ve seen other deve­lop­ments take pla­ce in the Mal­becs from other nations. In past com­pe­ti­tions, we’ve seen a real rise in the qua­lity of wines from Chi­le, which tend not to be as inten­sely fruity as the Mal­becs from Argen­ti­na, but offer an appea­ling spi­ce and tan­nic struc­tu­re, as well as an exce­llent blen­ding com­po­nent for Caber­net and Syrah.

This year it was another nation that came into the spotlight – Fran­ce, and abo­ve all Cahors, an area in the south­west of the country that’s thought to be the nati­ve home of the grape.

Des­pi­te this con­nec­tion, Cahors has not really bene­fit­ted from the fashio­na­ble sta­tus of Mal­bec, which has cen­tred on Argen­ti­ne expres­sions, with their con­cen­tra­ted black fruit and firm tan­nins, as well as a strong asso­cia­tion with steak – Argen­ti­ne Mal­bec is dee­med the ideal part­ner for mar­bled meat.

Why was Cahors not caught up in the Mal­bec cra­ze? For a start, few knew that this part of Fran­ce, whe­re the wines are sold by their regio­nal desig­na­tion rather than gra­pe, was a sour­ce of Mal­bec, let alo­ne the his­to­ri­cal home of the variety.

Today, the­se facts are slowly being recog­ni­sed. More impor­tantly, the wines from Cahors are get­ting much bet­ter, with clean, ripe, juicy fruit, well-jud­ged oak, fine tan­nins, and a dis­tin­cti­ve tas­te that’s more savoury than the Mal­becs from Argen­ti­na, and in terms of tex­tu­re, a little tau­ter, and drier.

We’ve pic­ked up on the qua­lity of Cahor Mal­becs from Châ­teau Lagré­zet­te in the past, but this year, it was the wines of Geor­ge Vigou­roux that sho­ne, par­ti­cu­larly Cro­cus, his joint ven­tu­re brand with inter­na­tio­nal wine con­sul­tant Paul Hobbs –a label to shi­ne a new light on the reds of South­west France.

Neverthe­less, a pro­du­cer from Argen­ti­na pic­ked up more top sco­res than any other. That was Cate­na, which has taken Mal­bec to new heights, not just when com­pa­red with the com­pe­ti­tion from its own nation, or con­ti­nent, but rela­ti­ve to what the rest of the world is doing with this variety.

Indeed, Cate­na seems to be pro­vi­ding the most power­ful argu­ment for an upwards revi­sion of Malbec’s qua­lity poten­tial, and an impro­ve­ment of its glo­bal repu­tation – and, to add con­tro­versy to this com­pli­ment, even pro­vi­de a reason to ele­va­te the gra­pe to ‘noble’ sta­tus along­si­de the likes of Cabernet.

  • Plea­se read on to see the results in full from this year’s com­pe­ti­tion, as well as our jud­ges’ com­ments, and further infor­ma­tion about The Glo­bal Mal­bec Masters. 

Unoaked 100% Malbec

Domai­ne Bousquet Came­leon Orga­nic Malbec Uco Valley Argen­ti­na 2021 Gold
Domai­ne Bousquet Orga­nic Malbec Uco Valley Argen­ti­na 2021 Sil­ver
Domai­ne Bousquet Lalan­de Orga­nic Malbec Uco Valley Argen­ti­na 2021 Sil­ver

Oaked 100% Malbec

Domai­ne Bousquet Gaia Orga­nic Malbec Uco Valley Argen­ti­na 2020 Sil­ver

Judges’ comments

Patri­cia Ste­fa­no­wicz MW

Most of the wines came from South Ame­ri­ca with Argen­ti­na domi­na­ting the ‘har­vest’ of medals, espe­cially of top sil­vers and golds. Chi­lean wines can be good when pro­perly ripe and we found a few more-than­res­pec­ta­ble exam­ples, sho­wing good balan­ce and concentration.

Brisk aci­dity, well-con­tro­lled tan­nins and appro­pria­te use of oak with high alcohol less evi­dent are all attrac­ti­ve fea­tu­res in the wines jud­ged. Even at the end, not too much pala­te­fa­ti­gue. Other posi­ti­ve aspects of the tas­ting were the blends of Mal­bec and other, mostly Bor­de­lais, varieties.

Many of the­se blends were suc­cu­lent and aro­ma­tic, sho­wing how well Mal­bec can work with other gra­pes. In par­ti­cu­lar, adding extra dimen­sion and filling the some­ti­mes slightly hollow mid-pala­te make the wines seem more com­ple­te. “At the stra­tosphe­ric pri­ce levels, many of the wines are stun­ningly deli­cious: great fruit, appro­pria­te oak accents, bright aci­dity and vel­vet­tex­tu­red tan­nins, laye­red, com­plex wines, worth every pound.”

David Round MW

The ove­rall stan­dard was higher than I expec­ted – fewer faults, bet­ter balan­ce and more cha­rac­ter. I found it more varied than I expec­ted, and in a good way. As ever, some wines had fresh­ness and balan­ce, others were richer, more block­bus­ter in character.

In the past, the for­mer were the best exam­ples at the chea­per end and the lat­ter were the best exam­ples at the top end.

In fact, it was pretty much a con­ti­nuum of increa­sing rich­ness, oak influen­ce and alcohol levels as the pri­ce increa­sed, which can get boring. But now, we see more ethe­real wines suc­cee­ding at the top end.”

About The Global Malbec Masters

With high-qua­lity jud­ges and a uni­que sam­pling pro­cess, The Glo­bal Mal­bec Mas­ters pro­vi­des a chan­ce for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vine­yards of Euro­pe or les­ser-known wine­ma­king areas of the world.

The 2021 com­pe­ti­tion was jud­ged over one day in Novem­ber at 28–50

Wine Workshop & Kit­chen in South Ken­sing­ton, emplo­ying expe­rien­ced jud­ges. The top wines were awar­ded Gold, Sil­ver or Bron­ze medals accor­ding to their result, and tho­se expres­sions that stood out as being outs­tan­ding in their field recei­ved the ulti­ma­te acco­la­de – the title of Mal­bec Mas­ter. This report fea­tu­res the medal win­ners only.

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