The world celebrates the Malbec grape on April 17, the 9th occasion it has done so since the special day was inaugurated.
The point was initially to promote the Argentinian excellence with a variety that originated in south-west France but has become a star for the South Americans. It has subsequently become an opportunity across the world to cast light on the variety itself.
The story goes that this was the day in 1853 that Malbec was introduced in Argentina. When Phyloxera and later the devastating winter of 1956, struck in Europe, Argentinian wines soared. Especially Malbec thrived in the region and became the star.
In South Africa, the variety might not be as familiar as its cousins, although it is consumed most commonly as part of red blends ironically associated with its original home of Bordeaux.
It came to South Africa in the 1920s.
Today, the variety covers just over 450ha in South Africa and ranks as one of the country's top 20 wine grape cultivars. Statistics from the South African Wine Information & Systems (SAWIS) show that it is grown almost in every wine region from the Northern Cape to the Little Karoo. The bulk of the vines are in Paarl, Stellenbosch and Swartland.
Now, if you're looking for ideas on where to try some home-grown Malbec, here are a few ideas with contact information. Where no hours are indicated, it's likely the venue is open by appointment only. Phone ahead to make sure.
The Louws of Diemersdal have been here for six generations and have a well-established reputation for innovation. The farm is situated on the slopes of the Dorstberg, with Table Mountain as backdrop. Malbec is among its vineyards, with the maiden vintage of the Diemersdal single cultivar Malbec arrived in 2015. Specialising in a farm-style fine dining, the Diemersdal restaurant is a great way to explore how the wines shape up to good food.
Contact: 021 976 3361 or visit www.diemersdal.co.za.
Namaqua West Coast
If you happen to be exploring the beautiful arid landscapes of the region, stop by Namaqua Wines' Die Keldery to try its Malbec-containing blends: Cape West Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon/Pinotage and Cellar Door Pinotage/Malbec. The grapes originate from the Olifants River Region. The winery itself has been around since 1947 and produces around 10% of South Africa's wine. Its visitor centre - Die Keldery restaurant and wine tasting room – is a popular oasis.
Contact 027 213 1080,or visit www.namaquawines.com.
Many newcomers get to know Backsberg as a result of one of the many concerts and events hosted at the farm. Apart from its wines, the list of highlights include being able to enjoy its beautiful gardens, walk through its old vat cellar and enjoy a meal al fresco, beneath the trees. Backsberg has just harvested its first organic Malbec, which is an exciting prospect for sure. The cultivar has been used in the farm's blends like Klein Babylons Toren and Family Reserve Red.
Contact: 021 875 5141,or visit .
Druk my Niet
The tiny estate lies in the Daljosafat area and was relaunched last year after a devastating fire. The property sports a new tasting room and winery, as well as new self-catering cottages built in the Cape vernacular style. The Malbec that supplies amongst others its single variety wine, were planted in 2004.
Contact: 021 868 2393, email@example.com or visit www.dmnwines.co.za
Another small winery, Mitre's Edge has dedicated just less than a hectare of the 18 at its disposal to Malbec. The latter was planted in 2003. Wine tasting is an exclusive experience, hosted at its Cape Georgian-styled manor house by appointment only. Accommodation is also available here.
Contact: 072 266 2990,or visit www.mitres-edge.co.za.
The first sign of Glen Carlou when driving along the Klapmuts-Simondium Road is the imposing winery and visitor centre that rises at the head of the vineyards. Here, Malbec is used in its Grand Classique red blend and a single variety wine in its Collection range. After or before a wine tasting or meal at the restaurant, there's an impressive art gallery to visit.
Contact 021 875 5528 or visit www.glencarlou.co.za.
Bushmanspad has made red wine its focus and taken advantage of its cool climate location against the Langeberg Mountain between Ashton and Swellendam. Malbec is one of the cultivars that thrive here, as borne out by the awards. Get up close and personal with the vineyard and book one of the self-catering cottages on the farm and make it a long weekend.
Contact 023 616 2961, www.bushmanspad.co.zaor visit
The Bottelary wine estate has been farming Malbec for some time and has had these vineyards some 20 years. The entire property is a blend of old and new, from the restored Cape Dutch homestead built in 1803 to the modern tasting room and restaurant recently added alongside the wine cellar. Good news for families, the venue's child friendly.
Contact 021 865 2054,or visit www.bellevue.co.za.
It was only in 2016 that the farm first bottled a single variety Malbec under its Zorgvliet label. Situated in the beautiful Banghoek Valley, its wines are made by winemaker Bernard le Roux and viticulturist Hannes Jansen van Vuuren. The farm with its expansive lawns and lush gardens has a wine tasting room, restaurant and overnight accommodation. Picnics are a favourite.
Contact www.zorgvliet.com, 021 885 1399 or visit
The stately winery known for its avenue of stone pines as much as its wines uses Malbec in its Caracal red blend and produces a single variety Malbec too. The cultivar is one of its anchor red varieties with the vineyards having been planted in 2003. There's plenty of history here too, which has been captured in a special range of wines under the auspices of winemaker De Wet Viljoen and vitiulturist Hannes van Zyl. The restaurant veranda of the restored Cape Dutch buildings is just the place to spend an afternoon.
Contact: 021 883 8988 or visit www.neethhlingshof.co.za.
This historic estate is home to a luxurious hotel and various restaurants and bars. It's wine centre hums with activity over the weekends when visitors settle on its veranda. Malbec features in its Le General blend, but also DOK single variety wine in the Keldermeester Versameling and hails from a single vineyard block.
Contact: Visit www.lanzerac.co.za.
Annex Kloof Wines
You'll go far to find a Malbec ambassador like Hugo Basson, winemaker and owner with his family of Annex Kloof Wines. It was apparently during a tour to Argentina in 1991 that he tasted his first Malbec "and instantly fell in love". No surprise then the Malbec remains a showpiece for the winery on the Paardeberg. There's farm accommodation and dams for swimming. No reason to make it a quick visit then. Tasting by appointment only.
Contact 022 487 3870,or visit .
Just getting to this winery makes for an interesting outing. Located at the end of a gravel road that winds through steep, tree-shrouded kloofs and past a few old, secluded farms, Doolhof is worth the trip. Its Malbec vineyard is located on a rocky slope beneath Bain's Kloof Pass, and supplies the grapes for amongst others its single cultivar wine. There's plenty to do apart from spending time in the tasting room. Enjoy a picnic or take a stroll on its river walk.
Contact: 021 873 6911, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.doolhof.com.
The farm's famous for its Pinotage, but its range is certainly wider than that and includes a 100% Malbec wine - Wine of Origin: Western Cape. The wine and country estate has an elegance reflected in its guesthouse, self-catering cottages and newly opened restaurant, Aan Tafel @ Diemersfontein. If you're after a little more excitement, book a saddle on its fynbos horse rails.
Contact: 021 864 5050 or www.diemersfontein.co.za