Malbec

A rich, spicy red that showcases the terroir of Old and New World wine regions

Typical flavors found in Malbec wines

Spicy and full of dark fruit flavors, Malbec has been a great entry to the world of red wines for a whole new generation of budding wine enthusiasts. In the past decade, it has exploded into the collective consciousness of wine drinkers everywhere, and although it was born in southwest France, it is Argentinian Malbec that steals the show. Much like Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel, Malbec had to move to New World vineyards to thrive. 

New World Malbecs are generally softer and less tannic than the Old World examples, but they do still manage to showcase the terroir of their sites. Malbec is a varietal that proves you can't predict where the next great wine might come from.


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History of Malbec

Malbec is an old wine grape that has changed drastically over the centuries. It is likely to have originated in northern Burgundy, but Cahors, southeast of Bordeaux is the true home of Malbec. Across France the grape has many names and is sometimes referred to as CôtCôt NoirPressac, or Auxerrois

Cahors has been a winemaking region since Roman times, but has recently made a comeback with the resurgence of Malbec in the 21st century. The popularity of Argentine Malbec stemmed the loss of native Malbec vines in Cahors and in Bordeaux's fields. 

In the middle of the 19th-century French ampelographer Michel Aime Pouget was in Chile educating burgeoning winemakers before being invited to Mendoza, Argentina to establish a winemaking academy. Under his guidance Argentine winemakers began planting Malbec (among other grapes). 

More than a century later Argentine winemakers began experimenting with the grape all over the country to great results. Winemaker Nicholás Catena Zapata planted Malbec at 5000 feet above sea level and brought the Malbec grape into the spotlight. Since then, Malbec regions from Cahors to California have experienced a boom.

What does Malbec taste like?

Malbec is known for making a deep purple wine full of dark fruits and ripe tannins. It can take oak aging, but it can also stand on its own. Typical tasting notes include spice, tobacco, black cherry, blackberry, and violets. 

Fun Fact

Some producers are using Malbec to make Rosé, which produces wines that are incredibly rich in flavor.

Malbec Characteristics

Malbec grapes are dark purple with thick skins that can impart rich tannins to a finished Malbec wine. The grape is somewhat finicky and needs a warm, sunny climate to mature. The soil type is less important, but it has a tendency to grow vigorously that must be reigned in to produce expressive, concentrated grapes.

Malbec Nutritional Facts

The nutritional value in Malbec varies greatly depending on two main factors: alcohol and sugar. The more sugar present in a wine, the more carbohydrates.

The alcohol in Malbec varies depending on how ripe the grapes were when harvested, if the winemaker added extra sugar, and how long it was allowed to ferment. Malbec wines are generally in the middle range for all of these categories.

How to Serve and Store Malbec

Most Malbec wines are meant to be enjoyed fresh and should not be aged, although there are a few exceptions, and ultra-premium examples can age for a decade or more.

Serving Malbec can be done simply. The wine should be chilled, beginning at cellar temperature. If you want to experience the wine through multiple stages we recommend popping your wine in the refrigerator half an hour before serving and tasting as it warms in your glass, but this is all personal preference. Enjoy your wine how you like it.

To open you will need a traditional corkscrew. 

If you are storing Malbec, it should be in a cool place that does not receive direct sunlight, and preferably in a wine refrigerator or cellar. 55 degrees Fahrenheit is the median temperature wine should be stored if you wish to age the bottles. What matters most is consistency. Do not store your Malbec in a place that receives direct sunlight, heat, or too much humidity and remember to enjoy it while it's fresh.

What to Pair with Malbec

Pairing wine has some general rules, but we think the most important rule is to drink Malbec with the food you like. Malbec is a good choice for enjoying on its own as an aperitif before dinner, but if you are pairing we would recommend drinking it with rich red meats and roasted vegetables.

Malbec Wine Regions Around the World

Major Malbec growing regions around the world

Malbec is truly an international grape and grows all over the winemaking world. The styles vary greatly by region and by producer. Here is a brief overview of where it is growing, and broad tasting notes associated with each region. 

France:

French Malbec almost always refers to one thing: Cahors. The Cahors appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) rules state that the grape can appear as a single varietal or as a red blend that must be at least 70% Malbec. French winemakers often use Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat to round out the blend.

Malbec can also be found growing under many names throughout Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, but generally in France Malbec vines are being replaced by the more easily cultivated Merlot. 

Argentina:

The most famous examples of Malbec on earth come from Argentina, where producers are experimenting with climate, sites, soils, and altitudes. The most well known examples are from Mendoza but great examples come from Salta, la Rioja, Patagonia, San Juan, and Buenos Aires as well. 

The most highly-sought after Malbecs come from Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley (particularly Tupungato). These high altitude vineyards sit between 2800 and 5000 feet above sea level. The most famous example comes from winemaker Nicolás Catena Zapata who was a major force in popularizing Argentinian Malbec worldwide with the releases from Bodega Catena Zapata. The family's Adrianna Vineyards sits at 4,757 feet and produces wines that are blockbusters, and are highly rated by major critics.

United States:

Malbec can be found growing across California, but the most notable examples come from Washington and Oregon. 

Malbec growing elsewhere:

Australia, New Zealand, & South Africa all have Malbec vines planted, but they are not widely available.


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