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What is Malbec?

Learn what is Malbec with Vinissimus!

Hand holding a glass of red wine among the rows of vines in a vineyard. Photo by Grape Things from Pexels.

Malbec is a wine varietal that has gained great popularity in recent years, particularly among red wine lovers. It is a grape native to France, but its true potential was unlocked in the high-altitude vineyards of Argentina. The resulting wines have a deep colour and full body with rich black fruit and spice flavours.

In this article, we will explore in depth the history and characteristics of Malbec. We will dive into its origins, how it became an Argentine speciality and what makes it unique compared to other red wines. In addition, we will discuss food pairings that complement Malbec's bold flavour profile and offer recommendations for choosing the best bottle.

Origins and History of Malbec

Tracing the Roots of Malbec: A Brief History

Tracing the roots of Malbec is a fascinating journey back to antiquity. This grape variety is believed to have originated in the south of France, specifically in the Cahors region, where it was known as Cot. It was also grown in Bordeaux until the end of the 19th century when phylloxera wiped out many vineyards.

Wooden post between vines in the rows of a vineyard. Photo by Pierre Ducher from Unsplash.

It was not until the mid-19th century that Malbec found its true home in Argentina, where it thrived and became one of the most popular varietals. 

The grape was brought by French agronomist Michel Aimé Pouget at the request of Argentinean president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. Sarmiento wanted to transform Argentina's wine industry and believed that Malbec would fit perfectly with Mendoza's high altitude and dry climate.

The Rise of Malbec in Argentina: A Winemaking Revolution

Argentina's wine industry has been revolutionised by the rise of Malbec but it was not until recently that it gained international recognition. Today, Malbec is one of the most popular red wines worldwide and is considered Argentina's flagship grape.

Mendoza's unique terroir plays an important role in the production of high-quality Malbec wines. The region benefits from a semi-arid climate with low humidity and abundant sunshine during the day, followed by cooler temperatures at night. 

This allows for the slow ripening of the grapes and the development of complex flavours such as blackberry, plum, chocolate and tobacco. In addition, Mendoza's high-altitude vineyards add to its distinction with their mineral-rich soils that give Malbec an earthy character.

Other Prominent Regions Producing Malbec Wines

Chile is one such region that produces excellent Malbec wines. Most of the vineyards are located in the Colchagua Valley and the Maule Valley, where they have a unique terroir ideal for growing grapes. Chilean Malbec has a distinctive flavour profile characterised by black fruit flavours such as blackberry and plum with hints of vanilla and chocolate.

Another region that produces great Malbec wines is California, particularly Napa Valley and Paso Robles. California Malbecs are full-bodied with intense flavours, predominantly dark cherry and cassis notes complemented by hints of oak spice and mocha.

Malbec wine production in France, Argentina, Chile, and California for the last three years:

Year France (in million liters) Argentina (in million liters) Chile (in million liters) California (in million liters)
2021 2.5 9.8 3.2 1.7
2022 2.3 10.5 3.5 1.9
2023 2.6 11.2 3.8 2.2

Characteristics of Malbec Wine

Understanding the Taste Profile of Malbec: A Harmonious Blend of Flavors

The taste profile of Malbec typically features rich dark fruit flavours such as blackberry, plum and black cherry. These are often complemented by secondary aromas such as vanilla, chocolate and coffee imparted by oak ageing. 

The tannins add structure to the wine with their astringency while balancing out its natural sweetness levels. This results in a harmonious blend of flavours that come together seamlessly on the palate.

Malbec's Aromas and Bouquet: From Fruity Delights to Earthy Nuances

When it comes to wine tasting, Malbec's aroma and bouquet are some of its most intriguing features.

The aromas of Malbec can range from fruity notes of black cherry, plum, and blackberry to floral notes such as violet and rose petals. Additionally, Malbec can have spicy aromas like cinnamon or cloves and savoury aromas such as leather or tobacco. These varying scents create a complex aroma profile for the wine.

Malbec's bouquet is equally impressive. A well-aged bottle will showcase additional aromas that developed over time due to the interaction between oxygen and tannins in the wine.

Exploring the Structure and Aging Potential of Malbec Wines

The structure of Malbec wine is characterized by its high levels of tannin, which comes from the thick skins of the grapes used to produce it. Tannin gives Malbec wine its signature dryness and bitterness that can be felt on the tongue long after drinking. 

This structure makes Malbec an excellent choice for aging as tannins help to preserve wine over time.

As Malbec ages, it becomes softer and more complex with secondary flavours such as leather, tobacco, and earthy notes emerging.

Food Pairing with Malbec

Perfect Complements: Pairing Malbec with Various Cuisines

 The key to finding the perfect match for your Malbec is to understand its unique characteristics and how it complements different flavours.

For meat lovers, Malbec's bold flavour pairs wonderfully with grilled or roasted meats, such as steak, lamb or pork. Its tannins can cut through the richness of fatty meats while enhancing savoury flavours. For a superior dining experience, try pairing it with a juicy steak or slow-roasted leg of lamb.

If you prefer seafood to meat, don't be afraid to experiment! Contrary to popular belief, Malbec can also be successfully paired with seafood dishes.

Unleashing the Potential: Matching Malbec with Cheese and Chocolate

When pairing Malbec with cheese, it is important to consider the characteristics of both the wine and the cheese. Malbecs tend to have intense fruit flavours such as blackberry and plum, along with notes of vanilla and chocolate from oak ageing. 

Cheeses that pair well include those with strong flavours such as cheddar or blue cheese or those with creamy textures such as brie or camembert.

A classic pairing is a bold Argentine Malbec paired with a strong cheddar cheese. The tannins in the wine help cut through the richness of the cheese while enhancing its acidic flavour.

Photo of person pouring wine into glass besides some cheese pairings. Photo by Ray Piedra from Pexels.

And when paired with chocolate, the potential of this wine is truly unleashed! The rich, fruity flavours found in Malbec can complement the sweetness and bitterness of chocolate quite well. 

The tannins in Malbec balance the sugar content of the chocolate, creating a harmonious blend for your taste buds to enjoy. However, not all types of chocolate work well with Malbec; it is important to find the right pairing to maximise their potential together.

Dark chocolate is often considered the best match for Malbec, as its bitter notes can enhance the fruity flavours found in this type of red wine.

Malbec Recommendations

Top Malbec Wines to Try: A Selection of Standout Bottles

Here are some of the best Malbec wines to try that are sure to impress.

First on the list is Alamos Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. This wine boasts an intense bouquet of blackberry and cherry combined with hints of spice and vanilla. The palate is smooth with soft tannins that make it easy to drink

Another great option is Catena Alta Malbec also from Mendoza, which stands out for its complex flavour profile with notes of ripe fruit, chocolate and tobacco. It has a long finish that leaves a pleasant aftertaste in the mouth.

Exploring Malbec Blends: Discovering Exciting Wine Combinations

The most common blend for Malbec is with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. The addition of these grapes adds structure and complexity to the wine while maintaining the richness of the Malbec. In blends with Syrah or Petit Verdot, Malbec can add an exotic spice flavour to the wine while contributing its distinctive black fruit notes.

Another exciting blend is with Bonarda, another grape native to Argentina. Bonarda brings bright red fruit flavours to the table along with earthy undertones that complement well the rich character of Malbec.

Malbec: A Versatile Wine Variety

Malbec Rosé: An Elegant Expression of the Grape

Many wine enthusiasts are now discovering the allure of rosé Malbec. This elegant expression of the grape is achieved by briefly allowing the skins to come into contact with the juice before fermentation, resulting in a beautiful pink colour and delicate flavours.

Malbec rosé wines tend to have aromas of fresh berries and citrus fruits, along with floral notes. On the palate, they are crisp and refreshing with bright acidity and light tannins. 

They are perfect for drinking in warmer climates, as their lightness makes them ideal for drinking on their own or pairing with lighter meals, such as salads, seafood dishes or grilled chicken.

While rosé Malbec may not be as well known as its red counterpart, it offers a unique experience for those who want to try something different.

Sparkling Malbec: Adding Bubbles to the Equation

Have you ever thought of adding bubbles to this classic drink? Sparkling Malbec has become increasingly popular in recent years, offering a unique twist to the traditional drink. The addition of carbonation can elevate the flavours of the wine and provide a refreshing alternative to regular still Malbec.

Sparkling Malbec is made by a secondary fermentation process that introduces carbon dioxide into the wine. This creates bubbles and adds an effervescence that can accentuate the natural flavours of the grapes used to make it. 

The result is a lighter-bodied wine with brighter fruity notes and a fresh finish that makes it perfect for summer drinking or as an alternative to champagne on special occasions.

The versatility of sparkling Malbec makes it ideal for pairing with a variety of foods as well.


In conclusion, Malbec is a grape variety that has gained great popularity in recent years. It offers a unique wine-drinking experience with its bold and intense flavour profile. As we continue to discover new regions and vineyards that produce exceptional Malbec, it is worth taking the time to explore this world of wine. 

Whether you are a seasoned wine enthusiast or just starting out, there is much to learn and appreciate about this versatile grape. So next time you're looking for something new to try, consider embracing the world of Malbec; you may just discover your next favourite bottle.