2022’s Best Malbecs are from Argentina (Part 1)

Argentina ended 2022 on a high following the selection of Pyros Vineyard Limestone Hill Malbec 2018 and Doña Paula Los Indios Parcel 2019 as the best Malbecs in the world by British publication The Drink Business, in the recently revealed results of the 2022 Global Malbec Masters contest. Today, Thursday Food features the former, which is derived from vineyards located in the country's San Juan province, produced by Pyros Wines. This high-end Malbec, of which only a limited number (5,392 bottles) were produced, was chosen in a competition that featured the participation of 100 winemakers in Mendoza. The wine earned the top placement amongst other exceptional wines in the "Master" category, with a rare final score of 97 or more, becoming the first label from San Juan to achieve the highest award in international competition. This Malbec is the result of extremely meticulous micro-vinification work in different containers, and is an expression of the tremendous potential of the Pedernal Valley where it was produced.

The 2022 Global Masters Malbec contest featured adjudication panels composed solely of masters of wine, master sommeliers, and senior international wine buyers. A key component of the Global Masters selection process is that each wine is judged by the flavour of its grape and the skill of its winemaker in a blind tasting by these expert judges: some of the best palates in the world. The Global Masters marks a distinctive shift in the way wine is judged as, for the first time, preconceived notions about the importance of location are set aside, allowing wines from around the world to be judged solely by their style and value for money. Argentina once again demonstrated that when it comes to Malbec, it is the great dominator in the world as seen in the results of the contest where more than 70 wines from the country won medals and topped the category listings.

Pyros Wines, whose Pyros Vineyard Limestone Hill Malbec 2018 topped all others, is located in the San Juan province of Argentina, just east of the Andes mountain range. The wine has great aromatic intensity, highlighting red fruits, aromatic herbs and notes of wild flowers. On the palate, it is very fresh with texture, where mineral notes and aromatic herbs stand out. The bodega's labels were created to highlight the uniqueness of the Pedernal terroir, as the first brand comprised exclusively of high-end wines from the province of San Juan. These distinctive wines come from the cold climate of Pedernal Valley which resultS in varietals of deep and intense colour expressing notes that include wild flowers, black fruit and spicy aromas. Pyros's varietals are of great character, elegance and complexity possessing good concentration as well as having great natural acidity that also feature black fruit, spicy and mineral notes.

The name Pyros derives from the soil of the Pedernal Valley being made up mostly of the silica stone known as flint, that, when struck together, creates a shower of sparks. Local legend throughout generations says these rocks were used by the old people of the region to light their fires for cooking and warmth. It is those first flames from the silica stones and the spirits of the ancestors who sparked them that gave rise to the name Pyros, which means fire. The winery pays homage with wines that are deeply rooted in the unique terroir, destined to bring the history of the Pedernal Valley to life. It was in 2008 that Myndert Pon, the founder of Bodegas Salentein, visited the Pedernal Valley in San Juan and was inspired by the tremendous beauty, untamed nature and diverse terroir that existed. This inspiration, and his vision to showcase the superlative fruit grown in the Pedernal Valley, led to the creation of Pyros Wines, the first world-class wine collection reflecting the uniqueness of the Valle de Pedernal.

All the grapes for these wines come from the exclusive Pedernal Valley, a deep and isolated canyon located in the mineral-rich foothills of the Andes Mountains in the province of San Juan. Pedernal Valley, located south-west of the province with arable high lands that go from 1,250 ft to 1,500 ft above sea level, is protected by a natural barrier, Pedernal Hill, which makes it a confined valley isolated from natural pests and far from civilization. This creates its own unique conditions and since 2007, Pedernal Valley has been a Wine Geographical Indication (GI), a unique and different place where world-class Argentinean wines are created. The weather is continental and cold, with a wide temperature range (from 18°C to 20°C) and average maximum temperatures are under 28°C. This condition makes grapes develop thicker skins, higher concentration and balance between sugars, polyphenols and acids. This results in wines with more intense colour, with greater expression of aromas and flavours, very good tannin structure and marked natural acidity, making them more expressive with greater aging potential.

The soils in the east area of the valley, where the Pyros Vineyards are located, are calcareous and from geological origin, dating back over 480 million years ago to a marine sedimentary environment with a carbonate platform. They have a loamy-sandy texture with a content of different percentages of limestone, dolomia, together with other silicon dioxide rocks such as Pedernal, from which the valley gets its name. This combination has contributed to excellent water infiltration and retention as only seven per cent of the soils of the earth's surface are calcareous and from a geological origin. Pedernal Valley is the only soil with these characteristics within the wine-making sector in Argentina that, along with its high altitude and weather conditions, create a terroir with calcareous soils, which is one-of-a-kind in the world. These soils are highly valued as they help produce high-quality wines with a unique and different tannin texture.

Next week in Part 2, we will feature the second Global Master Malbec winner: Doña Paula Los Indios Parcel 2019.

A wide shot of the vineyards at Pyros Wines in Pedernal Valley, San Juan (Photos: Pyros Wines)
Pyros Appellation Syrah (left) and Pyros Appellation Malbec (Photo: Pyros Wines)
Oak fermentation barrels at PyrosWines (Photo: Pyros Wines)
Pyros Special Blend of Malbec, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon (Photo: Pyros Wines)
2016 Pyros 'Limestone Hill' Malbec (Photo: Pyros Wines)
Raising a red wine toast at Pyros Winery. (Photo: Pyros Wines)
Pyros wines (from left) Pyros Special Blend, Pyros Single Vineyard Malbec, Pyros Appellation Malbec and Pyros Vineyard Limestone Hill Malbec (Photo: Pyros Wines)
Pyros Single Vineyard Malbec - 2016 (Photo: Pyros Wines)
Pyros Appellation Chardonnay (Photo: Pyros Wines)

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