24th July, 2014 by Gabriel Stone
The UK and Canadian markets are helping to create demand for Australian Malbec, according to Wolf Blass chief winemaker Chris Hatcher.
Speaking to the drinks business at a 35-year vertical tasting of Wolf Blass Black Label ahead of its 2010 vintage launch in September, Hatcher noted that Malbec had begun to feature as a regular part of this Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend since 2002.
Although the 2010 vintage of the brand’s top barrel selection does not feature Malbec, Hatcher praised the variety’s performance in Australia and highlighted its long history in the country.
“Malbec actually came to Australia a couple of years before Argentina,” he claimed, suggesting that there were now “a couple of thousand tonnes” produced each year, primarily in Langhorne Creek, Clare Valley and Coonawarra.
Despite this “not insignificant” presence of Malbec, Hatcher indicated that domestic interest in the variety remains low and the grape’s presence in a blend often remained undeclared on labels. “I don’t think anyone’s really promoted it,” he remarked. “Australian consumers aren’t really there yet, but once they taste it they really like it.”
However, revealing that Wolf Blass had started incorporating some Malbec into its Yellow Label and Gold Label tiers this year, Hatcher observed: “The people who are most interested are Canada and the UK.”
Explaining the appeal of this variety, he commented: “Really good Malbec has good concentration, good colour and good tannic structure. In areas like Langhorne Creek it has good fruit too.”
Hatcher also commented on the particular suitability of Malbec for Wolf Blass’ range. “I like it because it’s a more traditional variety,” he explained. “A lot of people are doing things with exotic varieties at the moment, but that’s not really Wolf Blass.” Indeed, he noted that the inaugural Yellow Label 1966 was a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec “so there’s actually quite a good connection.”