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What is Malbec?

Malbec is a wine typically associated with Argentina, and there is good reason for that – some of the very best styles of this varietal come from this part of South America. Let’s learn a little bit more about this wine, what to look for when buying a bottle and what to eat with it.

Malbec 101

  • Malbec is a grape variety with a deep, inky colour, producing a dry red wines that boast robust tannins and (when made well), a long, smooth finish
  • Malbec came to South America from France, where the it was being blended with Cab Sav, Cab Franc and Merlot in Bordeaux, as Malbec grown here and produced as as a single varietal is quite harsh
  • When Malbec was brought to South America in the 19th century, winemakers realised it’s ability to thrive in Argentina’s cool climate with lots of sunshine and high altitudes
  • Not unlike Pinot Noir, Malbec is thin-skinned, tricky grape to grow, prone to frost and disease; it is also high yield, so there is a lot of Malbec produced in Argentina, some of which is fairly average, some of which (when grown and made with skill and care) can stand up to some of the very best red wines
  • Though all Malbecs tend to be quite tannic, Argentina’s growin conditions mean this really dry, tannic wine can also be aromatic and soft – this smoothness makes the wines less overpowering
  • The Mendoza region, with high altitudes near the Andes, is particularly known for producing beautiful Malbecs; here, hot days and cool nights allow winemakers to produce wines that are not too alcoholic, with plenty of acidity and yet elegance

The Mendoza region of Argentina is known for produces some of the best, most elegant Malbecs

  • Mendoza is the primary growing region in Argentina, but its grown all along the Eastern slopes Andes, from Salta in the north part of the country, where Malbec tends to be riper and softer, to Patagonia in the south, where the style is quite acidic, ruggid and aromatic; in particular Malbec from the Uco Valley in Mendoza are worth exploring
  • Outside of Argentina, there are some lovely Malbecs coming out of California, particularly the Napa Valley, as well as Australia, where Victoria’s Heathcote and South Australia’s Clare Valley are giving the grape a strong name down under
  • As for food, Malbec as we’ve mentioned, is quite tannic but smooth, with some spice and dark fruits, with a rather velvety finish – for the harsher, rustic styles, go for some smokey, charred meats on off the barbecue; the more elegant, smooth styles do well alongside spicy dishes like Thai curries or rich, heavily spiced stews.

Catena Zapata produces some wonderful Argentinian wines, including their signature Malbec from the Mendoza region’s Uco Valley

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Judi Bray
Judi Bray
12 days ago

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