Unpolished Grape Series: Malbec


Although we usually associate Malbec with Argentina, it is indeed a black grape from Cahors, Southwest France. The grape was originally referred to as “black wine” because of its intense, dark hue and powerful black fruit flavors. French Malbec is known for being rustic, complex, tannic, and for having the ability to age for a very long time in the bottle. When Malbec was planted in Argentina around the mid 1800s, it experienced such great viticulture success that it quickly became its flagship grape. Today we associate the wine with Mendoza, Argentina and appreciate its riper and richer flavor characteristics produced in this hot region.

At a baseline, Malbec boasts dark flavors of black fruits, such as black plum, black cherry, and blackberry, with hints of licorice, black pepper, coconut and sometimes even meat. Argentinean Malbecs are often a bit fruitier and riper, but still lead with their dark fruit flavors and aromas. It is often matured in oak, which softens its tannins and adds secondary notes of vanilla, cedar, coconut and spice to the final wine. As it ages in the bottle, Malbec can develop rich, dark flavors of meat and dried fruit.

French Vs. Argentinian Malbec

Malbec grapes grown in Southwestern France tend to produce lighter and more herbaceous wines than those produced in hotter climates. The local French terrior and cooler growing conditions make these wines a little more earthy and rustic, with a higher presence of red fruit flavors.

Argentinian Malbec tends to be riper and richer than its French counterpart, with noted black fruit flavors. Here, it produces a wide range of styles depending on vineyard elevation. Grapes grown at lower altitudes (hotter growing environments) tend to be riper, fuller and less structured than the those grown at higher elevations (cooler growing environments). New-oak barrel maturation is common, producing the addition of spicy flavors and aromas.

Food Pairings

Malbec pairs well with hearty and savory meat entrees, including cured and smoked sausages, steaks, pork tenderloin, burgers, short ribs and lamb chops. It also pairs well with lighter dishes like salmon, chicken and rice, hearty pastas, hard cheeses, and mushrooms. In addition, it compliments foods that contain flavorful onion and garlic.


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