Tell Me About BC Malbec

Malbec grapes

Malbec grapes

When we think about red wines of BC we think of wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah grapes.  But what about lesser known grapes such as Malbec?  How much single varietal Malbec wines are made in BC, or is blended with other grape varieties to make a “Meritage” wine?

Malbec is a Bordeaux grape that needs enough heat and growing season to truly ripen and be more than a blending grape.  Argentina’s high altitude Mendoza region has everything that Malbec needs to be very expressive and to make a great single varietal wine; According to Alberto Arizu from Luigi Bosca, he noted that Argentina has 4 advantages for growing Malbec 1) altitude = slow maturation of grapes which lead to more concentrated flavours, 2) alluvial soil – poor in organic matter gives good quality grapes, 3) dry desert – they get less than 200mm of rain while vines need 600mm of rain each year, 4) they use the best water in the world from the Andes snowmelt.  You get aromas and flavours of dark fruit (red and black), cherries, chocolate, plum, pencil leads, and more.  This is typically a big wine with medium to firm tannins that can be paired with a hardy meal or BBQ. 

But what about BC?  Is the Okanagan hot enough to ripen Malbec to make quality wine?  The Okanagan can be viewed to have similar conditions to the Mendoza region of Argentina.

I thought I would check to see how many wineries or wines are being produced from the Malbec grape.  I visited the BC Liquor Stores website, Swirl Wine Store, Everything Wine, BC Wine Info Centre, plus the last 2 years of my tasting notes from various trade tastings, to see how many Malbec, or blends with Malbec, I could find.  Checking the website, the list of the most planted red grape varieties, Malbec does not show up in the top six.  The sixth most grape is Gamay Noir with 72 hectares (2019 stats), so Malbec should have even a smaller number of hectares planted.  

That being said, I was surprised at the number of Malbec wines I identified.  The breakdown is as follows:

  • Single varietal – 10
  • Rosé (blend) – 11
  • Blend – 54

75 wines in total.  In the Blend, Malbec has typically the least percentage, varying between 2-10%.  Malbec does show up in some of BC’s top tier blends, such as Mt. Boucherie SUMMIT, Osoyoos LaRose Le Grand Vin, and Tinhorn Creek Vineyards The Creek, which I’ve tasted and they are excellent wines.  The seven single varietal Malbecs are made by:

  • Moraine Estate Winery
  • Bench 1775 Winery 
  • Moon Curser Vineyards
  • Deep Roots Winery
  • Inniskillin
  • Indigenous World Wines
Bench 1775 Malbec 2014

Bench 1775 Malbec 2014

I did try the Bench 1775 Malbec 2014 and rated it 4 out of 5 stars.  My tasting notes: Very deep ruby in colour.  Also more intense nose; lots of nutmeg and allspice together with black fruit.  With air, red fruit shows up and a hint of floral.  I think the toasting of the barrels really comes through in this wine.  Silky, round mouth feel.  The nutmeg and allspice flavours come through strongly on the palate, together with more red fruit, less black fruit, red cherry and a whiff of plum fruit.  There is a hint of oak.  The wine has very soft tannins.  Medium length finishing with more nutmeg spice and a mix of red and black fruit.  I would love if this wine had a slightly longer length and bit stronger tannic backbone.  I did try this wine with a rack of lamb, and the sweet spices really made a nice complement to the lamb.

So for at least this one wine, it appears that Malbec can produce a good quality wine on it’s own in the Okanagan.  I should try to find a Malbec for the other wineries and try those as well, and write a follow-up article.  In the meantime, please try a BC Malbec and post your comments below in my article.  Let’s find out more about BC Malbec together.

Which Wineries Are Making Wine With Malbec Grapes?

These are the wineries I determined through my search, but there may be others:

  • Moraine Estate Winery
  • Bench 1775 Winery 
  • Moon Curser Vineyards
  • Deep Roots Winery
  • Inniskillin
  • Indigenous World Wines
  • Deep Roots
  • Silkscarf Winery
  • Hillside Winery
  • Desert Hills Estate Winery
  • CedarCreek Estate Winery
  • The Hatch
  • Summerhill Pyramid Winery
  • Therapy Vineyards
  • Hugging Tree Winery
  • Kismet Estate Winery
  • Monster Vineyards
  • Blasted Church Vineyards
  • Poplar Grove Winery
  • Nk’Mip Cellars
  • C.C. Jentsch Cellars
  • Clos du Soleil Winery
  • Noble Ridge Vineyards
  • Laughing Stock Vineyards
  • Dirty Laundry Vineyard
  • Painted Rock Estate Winery
  • Lake Breeze Vineyards
  • Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
  • Covert Farms Family Estate
  • Road 13 Vineyards
  • Siren’s Call (BC Wine Studio)
  • Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery
  • Osyoos LaRose
  • Black Hills Estate Winery
  • Stag’s Hollow Winery
  • Culmina Family Estate Winery
  • Church and State Wines
  • CedarCreek Estate Winery
  • River Stone Estate Winery
  • Adega on 45th
  • La Frenz Winery
  • Bonamici Cellars
  • Pentage Winery

By the way, Malbec World Day is celebrated on April 17, so raise a glass to BC Malbec on that day.

Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.

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