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The Changing Face of South African Malbec

I sat on a tasting panel last week, giving feedback to an estate looking to improve their wine quality. After a flight of Malbecs that showed promise (but were, admittedly, far from stellar), one critic asked, “Why even bother with Malbec? At best, use it in a blend, but otherwise pull up the vines, and plant Cabernet.”
There were a number of nods of agreement in the room, and I found myself alone in my defence of premium Malbec as a single-cultivar category in South Africa’s wine portfolio.
To be fair to the others, it was clear that none of them had been paying attention to the subtle shifts taking place in both Malbec viticulture, and also Malbec winemaking, lending some nuance to the category that perhaps hasn’t featured previously.
I won’t go into my arguments here, but I can recommend that you start by tasting this Bloemendal Malbec, as well as Andri Hanekom’s DA Hanekom Langrug Malbec.

If you have yet to sign up for your Monthly HanDrinksSolo Wine Subscription then you’ll have to hunt this wine down in your own time. But until then, here are my tasting notes and some technical specs:

TASTING NOTES

👃🏼 A rather serious nose of cedar, roasted cocoa, white pepper, and blackcurrant fruit pastilles. After a while, the spice subsides, and the ripe blackcurrant and blueberry elements become more obvious.
👄 The palate carries medium weight blackberry fruit, with a touch of almost syrah-like pepper notes. Although the acidity is a bit lower than you might expect from a cool climate Syrah. The tannins are still quite firm, and give that this wine was four years old at time of tasting, it will definitely continue to silken up, if left in the cellar for another year of two.

TECHNICAL SPECS

🔬 100% Malbec. Wine of Origin Durbanville. Planted on a North-facing site, which is slightly elevated; an altitude of 220m ASL. The vines were planted in 2008.
The grape bunches were destemmed, crushed and cold-soaked for 48 hours. The were then inoculated and fermented in open top fermenters. Punch downs and pump-overs occurred three times a day.
Wine is transferred to 20% new, 40% second fill and 40% third fill French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and maturation for 18 months.
Total production: 4000 bottles | Alc 13.76% | RS 3.0 g/l | TA 6.3 g/l | Tot SO2 49 mg/l | pH 3.78
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