Grown in the right climate, Malbec makes stunning wines that range from soft, fruit-forward and cuddly, to stately, elegant and ageable. Whether inexpensive for every-day sipping, or a centrepiece wine with a prime rib roast, Malbec offers a world of discovery.
Argentina grows the lion’s share of this French grape, dwarfing France’s acreage six-fold. Once a staple in a red Bordeaux blend, it’s now a minority player. Not so in Argentina, where Malbec has flourished since the 1860’s, carpeting the plateaus, valleys and rocky slopes of Mendoza’s wine region in particular. Full-bodied, velvet-textured wines with creamy blueberry fruit and supple tannins have become colossal consumer favourites, catapulting Argentina to the head of the sales charts. There are over 97,000 acres of Malbec in Argentina, which is 35% of all grapes planted. Altitude is a major factor in the style and expression of Argentine wines, and Malbec is grown at elevations of 3,000 meters. Another classic region to explore is Cahors (pronounced ka-OR), in the southwest of France. An appellation for red wines only, Malbec (which must be 70% of the blend, and can be supplemented by Merlot or Tannat), presents a leaner, firmer profile than in warmer, New World countries like Argentina or even B.C. In our province, Malbec plantings are minuscule: about 62.5 hectares/154 acres, but this grape has already distinguished itself in single variety wines, or adding plumpness to blends.
Malbec is often a deeply stained magenta colour, can have pretty floral notes, and red, black or blue fruit flavours (think raspberry, plum, blueberry). Lively acidity and moderate tannins (which can range from grippy to supple depending on climate) gives Malbec great structure and mouthfeel. Oak can add flavour complexity, but unlike some noble red grapes, Malbec is utterly delicious without any oak at all.
Food LOVES Malbec - try a juicy blue cheese burger, a simple grilled steak with Argentine chimichurri sauce, or let its dense fruit uplift garlic roasted cauliflower. Ever heard the expression ‘stand-alone wine’? That’s when a wine is so complete, it doesn’t need food to balance or perfect it. And that is Malbec.
Here are six Malbecs I love. I recommend you try them as you join in the feverish celebrations for one of wines’ most loved grapes.
1. Rigal Malbec Cahors 2013 shows the more streamlined side of Malbec from France.
2. Moraine’s Rosé shows how well adapts to pink (it’s 80% of this gulpable blend)!
3. Eau Vivre’s potent edition displays the mineral-rich soils on the Similkameen Valley.
4. Stunners from Argentina will convince you of Malbec’s suitability in the Andean foothills; Altos Las Hormigas is a true terroir expression made by a team of superstars.
5. Also of Argentina, Masi’s Paso Doble blends Malbec with Verona’s Corvina grape.
6. On the western side of the Andes, try this complex blend from world-famous terroir-hunter and wine geologist Dr. Pedro Parra features old vines from Chile’s deep south.