This Malbec wine guide is part of our grape variety series. We break down some fun facts about Malbec wine, along with food pairings, aromatic characteristics and what Malbec wine tastes like.
The Malbec grape variety is most directly responsible for my personal interest in wine. From the moment I first tried a glass, the spiciness backed by rugged fruit and gritty tannins captured my palates imagination. I wondered what other complexities I could find within the bottles of Malbec scattered throughout the world.
What is Malbec Wine?
Malbec is a black & blue red wine grape variety. It’s notorious for producing dry, astringent and medium to heavier bodied reds. In the glass, it can appear quite inky with typical flavor characteristics of ripe black and red fruit. Fruit flavors in Malbec wine are often backed by spice, leather and various mineral undertones. The degree of flavor can vary dependent upon how long any particular bottle is aged in oak.
More often than not, Malbec wines will have a higher alcohol content. Between their dark inky color and ABV, you can expect to see some sexy wine legs dripping down the inside of your glass. (Scroll down for detailed Malbec tasting notes)
Malbec is one of 6 grape varieties permitted to be used as a blending grape in the Bordeaux region of France. A large concentration of Malbec acreage also exists within Cahors, France.
While it’s grown all over the globe — in both the new and old world — Malbec may now be most famous for its growth within Argentina. This is a relatively recent revelation, as Argentina has only achieved substantial recognition in the wine world for Malbec within the past 15 years.
Malbec Viticulture and Terroir
Malbec grapes have relatively thin skins and have been found to grow well in a variety of soil compositions. They do their best in warmer climates with lots of exposure to sunlight and well irrigated soil.
Due to their thin skins, they can also be susceptible to forms of rot and damaging frost. To some extent, the best tasting Malbec’s are those which come from yields that have been controlled. Malbec’s found within the New World, such as those made in Argentina, tend to come from grape vines that yield smaller sized grapes, compared to their Old World brethren.
What does Malbec Wine Taste Like?
Common Flavors and Aromas
- Fruit: Black, Blue and Red
- New World: Black Cherry, Blackberry, Violet, Plum
- Old World: Black Currant, Raspberry, Cranberry, Tart Plum
- Earth & Mineral Notes: Limestone, Clay, Forest Floor, Underbrush
- Additional Complexities: Smoke, Tobacco, Mushroom, Leather Saddle, Cracked Black & Red Pepper, Cacao
- Body: Medium-Full
- Sugar: Dry
- Tannins: High
- Acid: Medium
- Alcohol: High (13.0%-14.5% ABV)
- Finish: Long
- Soil: Limestone, Clay, Gravel, Silt
- Climate: Warm – Hot
- Notable Regions: Mendoza, Argentina | Cahors, France | South Bordeaux, France
Because of its larger body and astringent structure, we like pairing Malbec with any food that packs bold flavor. It goes incredibly well with pork loin or lechon, as well as with flank steak and beef stew. The spice, leather and smoky flavor backed by berry notes allows for a wide array of food pairings.
Spicy Mexican dishes and burritos of any kind are always fun and easy to do.
Indian plates are also fun to consider, since they tend to have bold hints of both spice and savory flavors.
If you’re not big into meat, try it with heavier fish, chicken and pasta dishes. Salmon with sharp cheddar risotto, chicken francese with penne alla vodka both work nicely. If you really want to stack flavors, try it with four cheese pizza topped with anchovy and or pepperoni.
Check out this amazing Salmon, Sweet Pea and Smoked Cheddar Risotto recipe. Pair it with an inky, spicy and smokey Malbec!