Born in France, made famous in Argentina…and steak houses!
Once grown widely across Bordeaux, and still making fine wines in the Cahors region near Toulouse, it’s really in Argentina that Malbec hit its straps and became a global wine phenomenon.
Malbec often has flavours of blackberry, black plums, dark cherries and a notable violet petal floral aroma.
It can also develop distinct herbal aromas, namely dried thyme and oregano.
The vast majority of Malbec is made into table reds, with two distinct styles: France’s savoury, with dark fruit aromas and firm tannins; Argentina’s dark fruit-focused, with violet flower aromas, and velvety texture.
Some sparkling rosé is made, in both France and Argentina, for full-bodied, red fruit-flavoured, traditional method wines.
Also Known As
- Pressac (France – Bordeaux)
- Côt (France)
Usually deeply coloured with a velvety texture and firm tannins.The limestone soils of Cahors produce grapes for wines of higher tannin and colour and the sunshine of Argentina produces wines with more body, with higher fruit concentration and alcohol.
Malbec’s high level of tannin and concentrated fruit make it a perfect pairing with red meat or game birds. Savoury French styles have a natural affinity with herbal marinades and velvety Argentinian styles work well with richer sauces.
Malbec is nothing less than a superstar in Argentina, now with well over 20,000 hectares planted. Nearly 70% of the world’s Malbec plantings and growing is centred round the central Mendoza region.
Argentina produces a much riper version of Malbec than that achieved in Bordeaux thanks to its high levels of sunshine, producing fruit-forward wines, with lifting violet flower perfume and concentrated black fruits.
The Bordelais abandoned Malbec in favour of Merlot in the 1950s as the winemakers struggled to cope with its susceptibility to fungal attack and frost. In the last decade, however, climate change research has seen Malbec replanted across Bordeaux, especially in the magically under rated Bordeaux region of Bourg.
In Cahors, Malbec sits pretty in the regions’s high, rugged, limestone soils produced a concentrated “black wine” with higher tannin and colour. Cahors AOC requires at least 70% Cot.
Malbec is also grown in the Loire Valley as a blending variety, but is now mostly replaced by Cabernet Franc. It’s also grown across Bordeaux-clone regions of Bergerac and Buzet.
Just on the other side of the Andes to Argentina, Malbec is also widely planted in Chile. It tends to be more tannic and so is used widely as a blending component to softer Cabernet Sauvignon.
There are also small plantings in North East Italy, Clare Valley in Australia and some remnants of pre-prohibition plantings in California.