While less popular than varietals such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Chardonnay, Malbec wine is still loved worldwide. Known for its easy-drinking characteristics and high alcohol content, good Malbecs can be found around the globe, each providing a unique profile that is distinct to its terroir. Whether you’re planning a dinner party or simply brushing up on your Malbec wine trivia, you’re in the right place. Join us as we dive into everything Malbec, from its tasting notes to its interesting history.
What Kind of Grapes are Used in Malbec Wine?
Malbec wine comes from the grape of the same name— Malbec. Malbec Grapes are dark, thick-skinned grapes that love the sun and higher elevations. You might also find these grapes under another name: Côt, pronounced (“coat”), is a name for these grapes that you’ll hear in France. Knowing these two are one and the same can save you time and confusion when shopping for Malbecs online.
The History of Malbec Wine
Malbec’s origins begin in southwestern France, more specifically, the Cahors region. While it was recorded in the region as early as the 16th century, it never truly found the center stage until it was taken around the globe to its current home: Argentina. Malbec grapes first reached Argentina around the 1880s and were found to do exceptionally well in the Mendoza region. The Malbec grapes grown here take on a different flavor than their french counterparts (which we will cover below), and this new flavor is a hit. Malbec wine is practically synonymous with the Argentinian wine market.
Malbec in the Global Wine Market
Market Growth: Malbec has seen a surge in popularity, particularly in markets like the United States and the UK, where consumers appreciate its approachability and value.
Variations in Style: The international appeal of Malbec has led to experimentation in style and production techniques, with each wine region imparting its unique characteristics to the grape.
Where are Malbecs Grown?
Malbec grapes can be grown worldwide, including in California, South Africa, Mexico, and New York. However, Malbecs truly call Argentina home. Currently, Argentina is home to approximately 70% of the world’s Malbec vineyards. They have been found to truly thrive in the climate and terroir available there on a scale unmatched anywhere in the world. That being said, the Cahors region of France still produces plenty of Malbec wine, albeit on a smaller scale.
What Does Malbec Wine Taste Like?
The short answer is that it depends! Generally speaking, Malbecs tend to be dry, with medium tannins. However, depending on where your bottle of Malbec is from, you might find a wide variety of flavors, textures, and experiences. We’ve broken down Malbecs by the two most popular Malbec regions below.
French Malbec Tasting Notes
French Malbecs are reserved and composed and often blended with Merlot or Tannat. They’re rich in earthy mineral notes and layers of spice. This, of course, comes after a more fruit-forward initial experience, which is often reminiscent of tart fruits, plums, and berries. These Malbecs are generally higher in acidity and often age better than their Argentinian counterparts.
Argentinian Malbec Tasting Notes
Argentinian Malbecs are generally more fruit-forward than their french predecessors and are usually bottled as a single grape variety. They tend to be sweeter, carrying notes such as cherry, blackberry, and cocoa. They also can carry more gentle notes of flowers, chocolate, and sometimes tobacco. These wines also tend to be higher in alcohol content than French Malbecs.
Best Food Pairings for Malbecs
Food pairings for Malbecs can look a little different than with other red wines, in part due to the fact that they have a relatively short finish. That being said, it is still a full-bodied wine and is best paired with foods that can match the intensity of what’s in your glass. Below we’ve highlighted some common pairings as well as a few personal favorites.
Malbec Meat Pairings
Both dark meat poultry and red meat are on the table when serving Malbec wine, whether a deliciously spiced pork chop or perhaps a cut of lamb. Don’t be afraid to incorporate your favorite herbs and spices, whether cumin, mint, rosemary, or even shallots.
Malbec Side Dishes
To accompany your meal, try a side of mild-mannered vegetables, whether mushrooms, peppers (cooked), or potatoes in any of their glorious and unfried forms. It’s difficult to go wrong; we only recommend that you stay away from more bitter greens like broccoli and spinach.
Malbec Cheese Pairings
Bold red wines traditionally have been hard to pair with soft yet flavorful cheeses; this isn’t the case with Malbecs, however. Pair your wine with blue cheese, gorgonzola, swiss cheese, or a classic mozzarella.
Any combination of the above dishes or something similar will help you create a world-class food pairing that your guests will never forget.
How to serve Malbec
Malbec wines are best served in a traditional red wine glass, slightly chilled, somewhere in the realm of 60-65 degrees. On a hot summer day, you might find it refreshing to go even slightly cooler still. Red wines have often been construed as best served at room temperature, but twenty or thirty minutes in the fridge prior to serving will better help you experience the full spectrum of flavors in each glass.
Malbec’s Secret Tell in a Blind Tasting
- Distinctive Color: Malbec wines are recognizable in blind tastings by their vibrant color palette, displaying a bright magenta rim and a deep, inky purple core. This hallmark coloring is a telltale sign of a Malbec, setting it apart from other reds.
- Aromatic Profile: Additionally, Malbec’s aroma can give it away in a blind tasting. It often exudes a rich bouquet of dark fruits like blackberries and plums, often accompanied by a subtle floral note, which can be a clue to its identity amidst other varietals.
- Flavor Characteristics: On the palate, Malbec typically presents a combination of fruitiness and spiciness, along with a smooth texture, which can be key indicators in identifying this varietal during a blind tasting.
Malbec Wine Festivals and Events
- World Malbec Day: April 17th is celebrated as World Malbec Day, marking the day when Malbec vines were first brought to Argentina.
- Malbec Festivals: Many wine regions host festivals dedicated to Malbec, offering tastings, pairings, and educational sessions.
Where to Buy Malbec Wine?
Luckily, you don’t have to travel to Argentina or France to get your hands on world-class malbecs. We carry a great selection of Malbec wine from all the top wine regions with prices for every budget. An incredible selection of Malbec wines online is only a click away.