Co-op Argentine Malbec San Juan: A red wine with the chillax factor

I’ve been trying to get my act together as I head towards some massive wine exams in about three weeks’ time.  I have loads of stuff in my head, and in a supporting role, a fair bit of wine in my glass (and occasionally an Argentine malbec).

Sometimes life shouts out “take a back seat” or “chillax” (well maybe not that exact term, I don’t know anyone who says that).

The reason why we’re here

I picked up this Co-op Argentine Malbec San Juan on the way to collect the doggie from the doggie minders (her second mum) the other day. It had been a LONG day.  I needed simplicity in my life. To be honest, I needed a b****y glass of wine.

Then, about 30 minutes later, as I was sipping away,  I remembered that I used to write these little snippety review things for you. Just a bottle of wine. The basics. And all that.

So that’s why we’re here.  I want to be organised and share the love again.

Co-op Argentine Malbec review
Co-op Argentine Malbec

Co-op Argentine Malbec San Juan 2018

What is it:

It’s an Argentine malbec, funnily enough! The clue is in the name.

Where’s it from: 

The San Juan region.

I’ll tell you some more: 

San Juan nestles in the shadow of the Andes, to the west of Argentina. Over on the other side of the mountains, Chile makes its linear stamp on the world.  The San Juan capital lies 90 miles north of Mendoza.

You can find out lots more here, at the Wines of Argentina website, but I’ll summarise.

San Juan is the second biggest grape and wine-producing region in the country; there are five valleys in the region, all growing vines. It is a region which many believe has the capability to produce world-class wines.

The grape: 

Malbec goes hand in hand with Argentina, even though its origins are  in Bordeaux. The grape was brought over to Argentina in the 1800s. It quickly established itself.  Malbec accounts for almost 40% of the planted red varieties in Argentina.

What it says on the vin

Ok then, the bottle notes. There’s lots going on here, not just on the colourful front label, but also the back.

We’ll stick with the front for now and …
“Intense and rich, bursting with flavours of raspberry and plum. The perfect partner with steak or spicy sausages.”

It’s a wine which has a lot to say for itself, because on the back the enthusiastic marketeers say:
“Dark, dense and polished, this sexy blend of depth and vivacity has a mix of sweet blackberry and boysenberry fruit laced with incense and cigar box. The long, intense mineral finish lets violets and lavander [sic] notes shine through.”

 All that packed into a bottle of wine and a spelling mistake thrown in.

A swivel and a swirl and a sniff and a sip … 

So does all that lavish praise stand up to scrutiny. There’s no doubt the label shouts out “vivacity”. To recap, I bought this as a weekday wine, as solace to help me relax. It did all of that.

The first night I tried this, I was having sausages (because the dog gave me that “I need sausages” look). She ate hers before the addition of gnocchi and spicy tomato sauce as she wouldn’t have been too enamoured with that combo. However, this wine was.

It is a full-bodied wine which tickles your nose with raspberry and pepper;  some plums too. I thought a bit harder and there’s some dense dark fruit down, down deep. It has a fair zap of acidity, dashed with pepper but not a huge amount of fruit. The spice is the lasting legacy in the mouth.

It’s such an easy sip to sip; I’ve dashed these words off while watching Manchester City thrash Watford in the FA Cup Final (only City fans will be happy about that).

The remaining wine will see me safely into the start of Eurovision.  I haven’t grumbled, I’ve just relished the pleasure of enjoying a glass of wine without having to concentrate too hard.

The small print

Co-op Argentine Malbec San Juan is 12.5% abv.  It’s available in many Co-op stores (tap your postcode in the link)  and I bought two bottles for £10 (in May 2019).   The wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.



The life of a wine buyer for Co-op wines … a peek inside Laura’s world

Co-operative wine in a glass

I’d love to be involved in the creation of wine and not just sit at the “consumer end” opening a bottle and enjoying the contents. Don’t get me wrong, I love that bit. I really love that bit.

Laura Stafford co-op wine buyer
Laura Stafford

Laura Stafford is a wine buyer for the Co-operative and I’ve spoken to her about her work and our shared love; sharing our love of wine.

Laura says she was “in the right place at the right time” when a role as a buyer came up, and a couple of qualifications later (from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust) and Laura is in a role she loves.

I asked what inspires her.

“I love the end to end aspect of my job, it’s all hands on. It’s the pride in seeing the whole process through.”

Laura will taste, test, and consider different blends during her visits to winemakers. Laura says: “Then suddenly you hit THE moment when you have found the right blend and it’s really satisfying.”

When sourcing a malbec in Argentina, Laura was hugely influenced by the region. That is reflected not just in the wine, but in the label.

Laura Stafford wine buyer mood board
Laura’s mood board which inspired the label of the The Co-operative Argentine Malbec

Laura explains: “There was a really colourful town, very rustic, murals on the wall, bright chalky colours, and it really showed the spirit and the character of Argentina. I thought, how can I live and breathe that through this wine?”

Laura shared a mood board with a design company back home and the result is a colourful but simple label.

Says Laura: “I talked with the design team about making it friendlier and easier to understand. Malbec goes with meat and it is full of raspberries and plum. The rewarding bit is seeing it on the shelves.”

The Co-operative Argentine Malbec
The Co-operative Argentine Malbec

Laura describes The Co-operative Argentine Malbec (£4,99) as clean and honest; there is just enough tannin and a good amount of spice.

Laura says: “I really encourage people to step a bit beyond the boundaries.

“I love the friendliness that needs to come from wine. Take away the scary factor; ignore the snobbery; ignore people who hold the glass in a certain way. Don’t be scared about wine. I want to make wines friendly and approachable. All of it, the whole package; from the wine to how we evolve the labels.”

Laura and I sipped and talked about Co-op wines.

Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio
Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio

Argentina Finca Las Moras Pinot Grigio (£6.99) is 100% pinot grigio, Laura explains that the warmth of the climate gives bolder fruits which are slightly tropical. I found a tutti frutti hot pot of pineapple, lemon and honeyed apricot.

I asked Laura what people could try that’s different if they are stuck in pinot grigio world. She says: “Try chenin blanc. It is a really drinkable style, with a little bit of acidity. The fruit isn’t as big and bold as chardonnay, or as acidic as sauvignon blanc.”

Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka
Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka

Hilltop Premium Pinot Grigio-Királyleányka (£4.79) is another pinot grigio, but this time blended with a local grape variety, Királyleányka (40% of the blend). It is pronounced keer-a-lee-en-ee-ka. It’s definitely easier to sip than to say! It is sherberty, lemony and has sweet floral notes.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir (£7.99) is from Chile. Laura suggests you pop this wine in a fridge for half an hour, or pop in an ice bucket for a chilled summer garden wine.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir
The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pinot Noir

This will bring out the red fruit and redcurrant characters. This wine smells of snapped twigs and palma violets, with blueberry and cherry flavours. Really lovely.

The upshot? I’m actually jealous of Laura Stafford.

Published in the saturday extra magazine March 14, 2015

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