If you need an excuse to treat yourself to a great bottle of wine over the Easter weekend – then why not select a rich Malbec and celebrate World Malbec Day? The event takes place on Sunday, April 17, and offers the opportunity for wine lovers to discover the diversity of Argentina’s most famous red wine.
Learn all you need to know about choosing a Malbec wine along with some great Malbec food pairing ideas, and a little about the history behind this popular full-bodied red wine.
What is Malbec?
Malbec is a dry red wine that is characteristically known for its dark fruit flavours and oak-smoked finish. One of the reasons that Malbec is so popular worldwide, is its affordability and easy-drinking richness.
You can usually purchase a good-quality Malbec at a lower price than a Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon – but don’t be fooled that Malbec is simply a cheap alternative – there is much more to this distinctive and bold-flavoured wine that just value.
Malbec is a grape that originates from the Bordeaux area of France, but today it is mostly known as a South American variety and is now mainly produced in Argentina and Chile.
The Malbec grape thrives in a climate with plenty of sunshine and not too much rain. The grape does lend itself well to the terroir – which means depending on the nutrients, weather, and production methods used to grow and produce the wine, the flavours and style can vary slightly according to the environment.
What does Malbec taste like?
Full-bodied and rich, Malbec wines are jammy and juicy and packed with the dark fruit flavours of plums and blackberries. The wine also exhibits notes of vanilla and dark chocolate, black coffee, and pepper. With medium to high tannins, Malbec can also have a slightly bitter taste, yet is smooth to drink.
Good quality Malbec has a distinctly smoky aroma of tobacco, blended with oak and vanilla and a hint of leather.
Flavours do vary depending on where the wine is produced. In South America where the climate is warm, the flavour is bursting with plums and blackberries. French Malbec, where the temperature is cooler, tends to produce a wine with a dominant black cherry flavour.
What colour is Malbec wine?
Thick-skinned Malbec grapes are some of the darkest in colour, ranging from a deep red to inky purples, which makes the wine appear an intense maroon or burgundy hue when poured.
What is the alcohol content of Malbec?
Argentinian and Chilean Malbec tends to be higher in alcohol levels than their French counterparts. This is because the higher temperatures increase the alcohol content and it’s quite common to see Malbecs from South America reaching to between 13.5% to 14.5% ABV – and above.
The cooler climate of French Malbec drops the alcohol contents to an average of 12.5% to 13.5% – so if prefer a less boozy bottle or are trying to watch your alcohol intake, it’s best to choose a traditional French Malbec.
Which foods pair well with Malbec?
Pairing Malbec with food is surprisingly simple. As with many full-bodied reds, this easy-going wine is the perfect accompaniment for steak, lamb, or pork dishes – but it also works equally as well with game meat such as pheasant or rabbit.
Malbec also works well with strong blue cheeses such as Stilton and Gorgonzola. Serve a glass of Malbec to your guests at a summer barbeque with a blue cheese burger and enjoy how the grilled meat and rich cheese compliments the smokiness of the wine perfectly.
It’s not just meat-eaters who can enjoy Malbec with a meal, as it’s also a great match for dishes that include mushrooms and peppers. Try this veggie-packed mushroom, walnut and tomato baked pepper dish with a glass of Malbec for a weekend supper – and you won’t be disappointed!
As Malbec is a very rich wine, it can overpower some flavours – and it’s best to avoid drinking it alongside delicate or white fish dishes. However, more robust fish such as salmon or tuna can take the complexities in flavour. Try pairing it with a simple seared tuna steak, served pink with a drizzle of oil and some fresh basil. Delicious!
Although Malbec is not usually thought of as a wine to serve with dessert, its jammy flavours are a match made in heaven with bitter dark chocolate. Impress guests at your next dinner party by serving a dark chocolate and cherry pudding with a large glass of Argentinian Malbec.
Which are the best Malbec wines to try?
If we’ve inspired you to celebrate World Malbec Day on Sunday, April 17, here’s our pick of the best Malbec wines from across the globe:
- French Malbec: Tesco French Malbec – 12.5% ABV: £5.00: Affordable, rich and fruity with blackberry jam flavours, this South-West French Malbec is the perfect introduction to smooth drinking wine.
- Argentinian Malbec: Beefsteak Club Malbec Mendoza Argentina – 13.5%ABV: £7.99: Mendoza is the most popular Malbec-producing region in Argentina, and this wine is exceptional value for money. Deep violet in colour with tastes of ripe black fruits it has a rich smooth finish.
- Chilean Malbec: Camino Del Angel Malbec – 12.5% ABV: £6.25: Robust, powerful and the perfect partner to steak with peppercorn sauce, this Chilean wine has a spicy vanilla undertone.
- Australian Malbec: Yellow Tail Malbec – 13.5% ABV: £6.00: France and South America are not the only noteworthy Malbec producers. The New World can hold its own with this ripe berry and dark chocolate tasting Malbec, where the grapes are grown on the sunny, sweeping plains of South-East Australia.
- Californian Malbec: Barefoot Malbec – 13.5% ABV: £6.00: If you prefer a wine with lower tannins, look towards a Californian Malbec that provides a well-rounded cherry and plum flavour to make it a great crowd-pleaser at parties.