You know about the ever-popular Cabernet Sauvignon, and you probably know a thing or two about Merlot. It’s time we answered the question, “What is Malbec wine like?” After all, every red wine deserves its time in the spotlight.
What’s smooth and juicy with a chocolatey finish? Meet our good friend, Malbec.
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What is Malbec?
Malbec is a dry red wine that’s rich, juicy, and fruit-forward with an inky purple color. While some styles lean toward red fruit notes, most usually show notes of ripe, plummy black fruit, often with hints of chocolate on the nose.
Everything You Need to Know About Malbec Wine
1. Malbec loves sunshine.
Malbec is receptive to its growing environment and relies heavily on terroir. This variety thrives in high-altitude vineyards, primarily because it requires more heat to ripen than other red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
2. Mendoza is the promised land of Malbec.
If you ask anyone, the best Malbec wine comes from Mendoza, Argentina. That’s because warm climate regions like Argentina are prime for growing these dark-skinned grapes.
Outside of Argentina, you can also find this variety growing in Australia, New Zealand, and France. Malbec is not widely planted in the U.S., but it has found something of a ‘second home’ in California.
3. Though popular in Argentina, Malbec originated in France.
Malbec has been popularized by Argentina, however, its origin dates back to southwest France. Here it is also known as Côt and is used to produce Cahors ‘black wine.’
Over time, the French grape experienced both environmental and economic problems. The Malbec grapes were vulnerable to disease and many of the vineyards were wiped out by the Great Frost of 1956. The wines themselves were less tannic than their neighboring Bordeaux wines, and some believe this made them less marketable to French wine drinkers.
Since the rise in popularity of Argentinian Malbec, French winemakers have started listing the Malbec variety on wine labels. It seems this wine just needed a home like Argentina to bring it out into the spotlight. Everyone loves a good underdog story!
4. Malbec is one of the varieties that can be used in a Bordeaux Blend.
When we think of a Bordeaux blend, we think Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. However, Malbec is another variety approved for Bordeaux red blends.
We wouldn’t consider Malbec a blending grape per say, but it does make an appearance in the Meritage blend, popularized in California. In Australia and New Zealand, you’ll see Malbec blended with Merlot.
5. Malbec’s chocolatey finish can be attributed to oak aging.
In addition to Malbec’s juicy, fruit-forward flavor profile, the variety is known for its smooth, chocolatey finish. You may even experience hints of coffee or cacao on the nose. All of these tertiary aromas come from oak aging – a process that takes an already delicious wine to the next level.
Pro tip: Oak-aged Malbecs pair perfectly with desserts like Tiramisu. The wine will complement the coffee and chocolate flavors.
6. Malbec is famous for its deep purplish hue.
Malbec’s deep purple color comes from its pigmented, anthocyanin-rich grapes. The grapes are almost a blue-black color, giving the wine itself an inky quality. When used to produce Cohors, Malbec was given the fitting name ‘Black Wine.’
Remember this little nugget of information for your next blind wine tasting!
7. At one point during the Prohibition era, Malbec was a popular grape for cheap bulk wines.
It’s true! During the days of Prohibition, Malbec was a go-to variety for producing cheap but easy drinking bulk wines. This boost in production had a hand in making Malbec the popular wine it is today.
In Vino Finito
What else do you want to learn about Malbec red wines? Let us know in the comments!