Each wine grape has its own special reputation, despite the fact origin and cultivation can significantly tweak its flavor profile. Malbec is one of the most stunning wine grapes for its robust flavor and high alcohol content, widely considered a drink that isn’t for the faint-hearted.
The dignified reputation of Malbec is known throughout the Western world. While this varietal has gone through its fair share of hardships, it’s now come out on top as a must-have choice for red wine lovers.
Are you a fan of hearty steaks and rich stews? Do you prefer wine with a particularly rich and vivid taste? We’re going to explore the origin of Malbec, its most beloved food pairings, and why you should give it a try.
The Origin of Malbec
Malbec has gone through quite a few trials and tribulations to become one of the top red wine grapes today.
This grape variety is notoriously sensitive to common ailments such as rot, mildew, and frost, making it difficult to harvest at the best of times.
This sensitivity caused Malbec to fall out of favor compared to sturdier grapes such as Cabernet Franc. Argentina would later see a revival in Malbec production in the 19th century thanks to government initiatives.
The warmer climate and sandier soil in Argentina also provide Malbec with a sturdier constitution, ensuring more consistent yields.
While the Malbec grape originated in France, the majority of grapes are now grown in Argentina. You can also find Malbec grown in California, albeit in much smaller numbers.
What Kind of Wine is a Malbec?
When you think of red wine, you likely conjure up fruit-forward sensations and a tangy alcoholic kick.
Malbec isn’t too different in that regard, but still has a few unique characteristics that set it far apart from a classic Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc.
Malbec Production is Quite High
How popular is Malbec? According to a 2018 Statista study, around 22% of wine drinkers between the ages of thirty and forty-nine consumed Malbec in the past three months.
Robust, Smoky Flavor Notes are Dominant
Fans of Malbec regularly flock to this drink for its vigorous constitution. This is the kind of wine that will linger on your tongue well after you’ve finished your glass.
While each bottle will taste a little different depending on age and cultivation techniques, the dominant flavor notes of Malbec are usually:
- Ripe red plum
Depending on the climate your Malbec is grown in, you’ll get more exaggerated jammy flavors or a sharper, tangier kick. For cherry and raspberry-like flavors, choose a wine bottle grown in a cooler climate like France.
A warmer climate, such as Argentina, will ripen your glass and encourage more chocolatey and blackberry-like flavors.
These aren’t the only traits you’ll get to enjoy. On the nose, Malbec tends to lean toward:
You’ll Gain a New Appreciation For the Long Finish
What is a long finish, anyway? This popular wine term refers to how long the wine’s aftertaste lingers on your tongue.
Malbec is beloved for its ability to stay long after you emptied your glass.
Malbec is Very Full-Bodied and Lush
The body of wine is just as noteworthy as its flavors and aroma. Malbec wines have a lush, velvety texture and heavy sensation.
Malbec is Generally an Affordable Red Wine
You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a tasty glass of Malbec. This wine grape is well-known for leaning toward the more affordable end of the spectrum.
Best Food Pairings With Malbec
Food pairings bring out the best in both your wine and your dish. Ideally, you want the flavors of your food to be a little different than the flavors of your wine.
For example, eating sweet food with sweet wine will leave your flavors muted. Likewise, eating food with a very strong flavor with a very mild wine will have you missing out on subtle notes.
Multiple Cuts of Steak
Malbec and a juicy slice of steak are an unparalleled combination. Whether you enjoy skirt steak or filet mignon, the juicy flavor of your steak will bring out your Malbec’s dark fruit flavor.
Roasted Pork Cuts
Not a fan of beef? Roasted pork cuts are a close runner-up for best Malbec pairing, offering a higher fat content to round out Malbec’s tangy and smoky notes.
While lighter fish like cod and halibut are usually paired with white wine, more fatty fish like salmon is ideal for a deep red wine like Malbec.
Portobello Mushroom Burgers
If you don’t eat meat, never fear. The meaty texture of mushrooms comes out nicely with a tall glass of Malbec. We highly recommend roasting this mushroom alongside grilled onions for an even tastier result.
The best-roasted vegetables for Malbec include the aforementioned mushrooms and onions. We also suggest root vegetables like potatoes, yams, and turnips.
How to Bring Out the Best in Your Malbec
All wine, whether on the lower end of the spectrum or breaking several hundred dollars, can be improved. Bringing out the best in your Malbec starts with understanding how red wine works on a chemical level.
Consider Purchasing a Nicely Aged Bottle
Do you want to tone down the normally high tannins in your Malbec? Try to find a bottle between the ages of seven to eleven after the vintage date.
Older Malbecs tend to be oakier, chocolatey, and subtle than their newer counterparts. That said, a Malbec that’s only a few years old will still be quite tasty.
Decant Your Wine Before Drinking
We highly recommend decanting your wine before drinking. The function of decanting is to clear out leftover sediment in your wine bottle that could interfere with the flavor.
This process also exposes your wine to air, reducing any excess acidity or bitterness that comes with the bottling process.
Similar to how coffee aficionados suggest using filtered water to brew coffee at home, so too should you clear out any excess residue with decanting. Decant your Malbec for around thirty to forty minutes before drinking.
Swirl and Sniff Before Sipping
Consider this process decanting on the go. When you swirl your wine, you expose it to a little more aeration to get rid of any lingering astringency.
Breathing in your wine is part of the sensory experience, exposing you to aromas that make your drink all the more special.
The Malbec Wine Price Guide
How much is Malbec? Not nearly as high as Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon. Malbec’s approachable price point makes it very attractive to budget-conscious drinkers.
These Malbec prices will give you a strong start on your way to wine fluency.
The $10 to $15 Malbec Price Range
Malbec tends to be pretty affordable to begin with, so you’ll have plenty of great options to choose from in this range.
Luc Pirlet Malbec
This Malbec almost tastes like a Merlot for its ripe, dark berry flavor notes. Enjoy this bottle over a nice dinner at home or with a group of friends.
Mascota Vineyards La Mascota Malbec, 2019
This Argentinian Malbec is a classic example of what this variety has to offer. This full-bodied wine bottle boasts flavor notes of blackberry, vanilla, and a mild floral aftertaste.
Layer Cake Malbec
The whimsical name of this bottle belies a rather powerful drink. Expect to get a hearty, smoky flavor alongside your quintessential black currant and blackberry flavors
The $20 to $30 Malbec Price Range
Do you have a little extra cash to spare? This Malbec price range is a little higher, making it a solid option for any special occasions you want to dedicate a wine bottle.
Altaland Malbec Mendoza, 2021
This Argentinian Malbec leans toward a more medium body, offering a nuanced palate of dark fruit, red fruit, and a surprisingly honeyed sweetness. If you aren’t too fond of tobacco or earthy tones, this is the bottle for you.
Luigi Bosca Malbec DOC, 2017
This Malbec is a slightly older vintage, offering a solid five years of aging to zest up its flavor notes. This bottle is buttery smooth, blending herb-like notes with cherry and baking spices.
The $35 to $50 Malbec Price Range
If you’re thinking of saving up for your next wine purchase, we recommend trying out some of the more exclusive and finely aged Malbecs.
Vina Cobos Reptil Malbec
Enjoy the finest Malbec Argentina has to offer with this delectable bottle from Vina Cobos. This winery is owned by famed winemaker Paul Hobbs, offering a silky body and complex floral notes you won’t find in most Malbec bottles.
Achaval Ferrer Quimera Mendoza, 2014
It’s a small wonder why Achavel Ferrer has hit achieved the premium label over time. This bottle is technically a blend, mixing predominantly Malbec grapes with Cabernet Franc and Merlot for a brilliant result.
Expect a sharp, spicy flavor with an incredibly long finish.
Is your mouth watering already? The key to enjoying your wine to the fullest is learning as much as possible. We have a few frequently asked questions below for you to start with.
What is the Difference Between Merlot and Malbec?
Merlot and Malbec are sometimes confused together and not just because of their name. Both wines are full-bodied and lean toward dark, jammy fruits.
The biggest difference is in their tannin count. Malbec has a high volume of tannins, making it a little more bitter, dry, and tart. This quality also drastically increases its aging potential, as tannins act as a preservative.
Merlot has a lower tannin count, resulting in softer, semi-sweet flavors and a semi-dry mouthfeel. Acidity is also lower than the average bottle of Malbec.
As such, Merlot is often considered the ultimate starter wine, though its aging potential is cut shorter.
Is Malbec Smoother Than Merlot?
Quite the opposite! Merlot is famed for a silky smooth texture, while Malbec’s higher tannin count makes it smoky or tart.
That said, expect a longer finish from a Malbec than a Merlot.
Is Malbec Dry or Sweet?
Malbec hovers between dry to semi-dry. It’s not nearly as dry as a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Sanviovese, though often more dry than a Merlot.
Winemakers have worked hard to give Malbec the reputation it enjoys today. Affordably priced, brilliantly complex, and bursting with character, this is one red wine you don’t want to miss.
Malbec is generally a drier wine that leans toward robust, smoky, and dark fruit flavor notes. Most Malbec is grown in Argentina, though you can find varieties in France and California.
Cooler climates encourage tart, red fruit notes such as cherry, raspberry, and red currant. On the other hand, warmer climates bring out jammy, dark fruit notes such as blackberry and plum.
What else should you try this year? We have guides on Merlot, Pinot Grigio, and much more!