Argentina in the Swartland

There are, so far as I know, just two little Argentinian corners in the Swartland – and I’m pleased that both are there. One is a person, one a grape.

hughesfamilyThe person is Billy Hughes, an Argentine-born engineer (he retains just a little bit of an accent), who, with his wife Penny, has a splendid farm and winery just north of Malmesbury -a location making it off-centre from the Perdeberg-Riebeeksberg main axis. It’s not just the two very good Nativo wines (a red and a white) that Billy makes off their organic vineyards of mostly Rhone varieties that give the farm its importance – the Hughes also supply grapes to some of the big names in Swartland wine.

Something more of a surprise in revolutionary Swartland is the presence of a good wine made from malbec – not the sort of thing you expect amongst all the syrah, mourvedre, cinsaut, chenin et al that the revolutionaries have espoused so enthusiastically.

Of course malbec is well known as one of the less-significant red Bordeaux varieties, a bit better known as the main grape of Cahors not too far distant from there (and where it is generally called Cot – the name it is listed under in the Robinson/Harding/Vouillamoz Wine Grapes). But nowadays malbec is internationally most associated with big, bold fruity wines made from it in Billy Hughes’s country of birth

AnnexkloofIt was a visit to Argentina  a decade back that enthused Hugo Basson of Annex Kloof (located near Lammershoek and near Eben Sadie’s cellar in the Aprilskloof of the Paardeberg) about malbec. Since then he has planted  all five of the locally available clones of the variety (though it isn’t included amongst the approved grapes of the Swartland Independent Producers!).

And the Annex Kloof Malbec has always been an attractive wine, one of the most pleasing of the local varietal examples of this variety (which probably mostly goes into Bordeaux blends). Furthermore it’s one not entirely dependent on the youthful fruity charm that malbec is so generous with.

Tonight I opened a bottle of the well made, subtly oaked 2008. Five years on, the pure, sweet mulberry/loganberry fruit characteristic of its early years has become more integrated with the structure, and it’s more savoury, interesting and complex. It worked very well as a young wine, but does so now at least equally well as a more mature one – perhaps more suitable I’d say as a food accompaniment. Not greatly complex, but well balanced and still retaining good fruit presence; a pleasure to drink. (16.5/20)

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