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How mindfulness is integral to Argentine Malbec

The values that underpin the Argentine wineries producing Malbec show how having respect for both the land and the end consumer is a worthwhile pursuit. Jessica Mason finds out more.

Many of us already know that Malbec thrives with sunny days and cool nights and that temperature fluctuations and altitude help with quality on the vines. But, have we ever considered that Argentina has another winning card up its sleeve? Well, it does: mindfulness.

It is a term that spans having a keen awareness of others and an appreciation of each moment in time. When being mindful, we take into consideration the environment in which we exist. In the interests of producing excellent Malbec, working with nature, rather than against it, has become paramount.

Describing the importance of this, Grupo Avinea’s technical director Juan Pablo Murgia explains how many Argentine winemakers have “learnt how to co-exist with natural ecosystems, and enhance biodiversity, respecting our environment and carefully managing resources like water.”

Indeed, working in symbiosis with nature is high on many a Malbec producer’s agenda and more and more are seeing the benefits.

One example can be seen with Xumek, a project based in the Zonda Valley that focuses primarily upon how the vineyards interact with the native flora and fauna. Xumek founder Ezequiel Eskenazi’s aim is “to obtain quality, character, personality and terroir identity [all] in harmony with nature”. Just seeing the strides that have been taken place Eskenazi and his vines into bohemian genius territory.

In a similarly easy-going way, for a grape variety that has spent so long growing in Argentina, Malbec has had time to adapt and offer variety, leaning in towards what nature requires it to do.

According to Agustin Lanus winemaker Agustin Lanus Wines, “Malbec has been in Argentina for almost 167 years, arriving in the country in the mid-19th century [and] “in the 1960´s Malbec was the most planted grape” but “lost against the popularity of the rising native Criolla” but then “from 1990 there was a resurgence”.

This in itself, seems highly significant because it means that Malbec’s success is as much down to the producer’s dedication to the land as any consumer trend driving it.

In the north, Vallisto winemaker Pancho Lavaque insists that his purpose is to interpret what the land and weather relinquishes and this, he says must be done “in an honest way”.

He explains: “We do agro-ecological viticulture, certified as organic. Our lands had agriculture for the past 5,000 years. We have vineyards in ancestral agricultural terraces that have at least 2,000 years”.

This, he admits, means he has a big appreciation for human impact on the landscape and as a result has led to him wanting to honour and respect it.

“We are here for a short time, and our intention is to preserve the purity of this place for the present and future, helping biodiversity to keep its beautiful balance and magnificent landscapes,” Lavaque says. He reminds again with this sentiment that it’s all about having that sense of awareness of the moment you occupy and the world that surrounds you.

Bodega Del Fin Del Mundo owner and president Juliana Del Aguila Eurnekian agrees and highlights how gratitude and respectfulness go hand in hand when it comes to nature and the elements. She admits: “It is thanks to the latitude, the strength of the Patagonian winds and the unparalleled power of sunlight that we can craft wines with a sense of identity.”

That respect, noted in the language used as much as anything else, is what sets Argentine winemaking apart from many other nations. Whether it is illustrated in a show of humility from those making the wines or with an unwavering respect for the terroir, it is a significant factor. As Bodega Urqo brand ambassador Federico Ruiz says “making Malbec wine is all about showing the purity of the soil” giving a nod once again to that keen awareness of the elements that support us.

According to Cheval des Andes hospitality, marketing and wine communications junior manager Noelia Perez, together as an industry we should try to get better at showcasing Malbec’s sheer diversity to the rest of the world because people still think Malbec is one thing. Certainly, it can flex to meet the needs of what people want, but more interestingly, it can adapt and reflect the quiet mindful potential of each location and producer.

She explains: “We need to avoid the somewhat caricatural image of Argentina = Malbec, and offer a wider range to show the full potential of this country with its “infinite terroirs”. This would consolidate the presence of Argentine wines on international markets, and we need it.”

From a global perspective, there are two sides of the coin here for Malbec’s reputation. One side shows how prudent its messaging has become, letting the world know Argentina offers some of the best Malbecs available. But on the other side, we need to reflect how Malbec is not just one thing. If anything, it is a mirror to the personalities that cultivate it. From a viticultural perspective, metaphorically it is chameleon-like, which makes it very honest.

Del Aguila Eurnekian echoes this and notes how “Malbec finds a different sense of place as the geography of the wine region changes and so there are many interpretations of the variety that are of great interest”. With this in mind, she predicts that “as consumers gain more knowledge and become more wine-savvy, they are able to tell the various regions and terroirs apart” and this in turn makes its appreciators more mindful.

Lanus points out how, when it comes to considering Argentine Malbec, the elements that push things forward are largely based on people’s dedication to learning more about it, all while considering and appreciating every element that drives progression. He says: “Knowledge is important in every aspect of human life. In understanding and appreciating what Malbec has to offer is not the exception.”

This considered approach that focuses on constantly learning more and finding ways to to self-improve is somewhat mindful too. A perspective gleaned only by doing the work and applying oneself to being the best version possible. He observes: “This hunger for knowledge derives as well in new efforts of the industry to find methods, whether on the vineyards and soils or in cellars and processes that seek to find and develop Malbec to higher standards.”

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