Argentina's Superb Late Harvest & Fortified Malbecs

Snowy grapes

The whole world knows that Argentina makes excellent wines from the Malbec grape, but not many people are familiar with its superb late harvest and fortified Malbecs. These wines are made from super-ripe grapes harvested late in the autumn in the high altitude vineyards of the foothills of the Andes. Sometimes snow falls before the grapes are picked [see the picture, courtesy of Belasco de Baquedano].

Grapes left on the vine a long time tend to desiccate, resulting in juice with high sugar content and ripe, Port-like flavors. The juice is allowed to ferment to the desired level of sweetness, and then fermentation is stopped. In the case of late harvest wines, fermentation is most commonly stopped by cooling the wine sufficiently. In the case of fortified wines, the addition of alcohol stops the fermentation process. In both cases the wine ends up moderately sweet but with relatively low alcohol in the first instance and relatively high alcohol in the second.

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