Wine Profile: Malbec
The Malbec grape has its origins in France. However, it has long since proven to be a more successful grape far outside of Europe. It’s true home today is Argentina, where it is produced as a single varietal, a blending grape, and a rosé. It has also put Argentina and South America on the wine world map.
ORIGIN EN FRANCE
In France, Malbec is predominantly grown in two regions, Cahors and Bordeaux. Cahors, a region in Southwest France, is the main production center for the grape in France. According to French wine laws, Malbec must constitute a minimum of 70% of any Cahors red wine. The wines here are deep and dark and highly tannic. In Bordeaux, Malbec is used as a supporting character in their classic blends. Primarily planted in the Medoc region on the left bank, Malbec comes in 4th behind Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. It helps to add color, texture, and structure to the blends.
AN EPIC RISE TO RECOGNITION
However, Argentina is still the leader of the pack, with 75% of all the acres of Malbec planted in the world. In France, Malbec often struggles to ripen and is prone to rotting. However, the vines thrive in Argentina’s hot, high altitude climate. In fact, Malbec is often referred to as the wine of Icarus because of its affinity for high altitudes and sunshine. With Argentina’s warm climate and elevation, the grapes ripen easily, producing high acidy, juicy, long-lasting wines. The grapes success in the vineyards of Argentina, particularly in the Mendoza region, has catapulted Malbec from relative obscurity to international fame. But it’s not just the grape itself that has grown in acclaim. Newfound respect has grown for Argentina as a wine producing nation and helped to put South America in the spotlight.
CALI IS KEEPING UP
Finally, Malbec is also grown in small quantities in California. This is inspired in part by the popularity of Argentinian imports. The style of wines here fall somewhere in the middle of the tight tannic French wines and the voluptuous Argentinian style. While a few producers are turning out single varietal bottling’s, the majority of the Malbec produced in California is part of Bordeaux-style blends.
WHERE MALBEC GROWS IS HOW IT TASTES
Malbec, in general, is known for its plump, dark fruit and smoky, sometimes spicy finish. However, regional differences and climate play a huge role in the wine’s flavor profile. In France, the wines tend to showcase tart fruit, leather, savory tannins, black plums, and black pepper. While in Argentina, however, the wines showcase rich, dark fruits like blackberry, plum, and black cherry. You will also find notes of cocoa powder, violets, and tobacco on these wines.
ROASTED AND SMOKEY AT ITS BEST
With such a dark, rich wine it’s no surprise that red meat is high on the list of foods that pair well with it. Argentinian beef is practically made for the country’s famous grape. But it’s not just beef. Malbec compliments most cuts of red meat, including sausages or marinated pork chops. It also goes great with meats that have a slightly gamey quality like lamb or venison. However, roasted root vegetables are also a really nice compliment to Malbec.