Malbec is a perfect go-to bottle when you need a big, round red wine at a great price. Malbec’s taste is going to vary between regions (and elevations) but it is generally a little earthy on the nose, full bodied and big in the mouth with dark berry and plum flavors; and then a little peppery and spicy on the finish. Malbec goes perfect with everything from red meat or red sauce dishes to hamburgers and pizza, making it a popular choice around grilling season at our house.
The first place to go for Malbec is Mendoza, Argentina where the price-to-quality ratio is almost hard to believe. Starting around $8 and going over $60, you can almost be assured you will get a good wine for the dollar when you go the Mendoza route. The good news for Malbec fans is that you are not alone, and most wine shops now have a whole section dedicated to Malbec wines.
Some names to seek out from Mendoza are Ben Marco ($15), Catena (starting at $15 but going up toward $100), Alamos (a favorite for $8), and Bodega Norton ($18+). The higher elevation Malbecs from Mendoza are where things really start to get interesting, and they taste different than those grown at lower elevations (kind of like your Atlas Peak and Howell Mountain Cabs in Napa). Next time you plan to splurge on a $50-60 wine, try a high elevation Mendoza Malbec, and it will taste like you spent twice as much.
Malbec is also popular in the Bordeaux region of France and it is frequently blended into wines along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The Cahors region is particularly well known for more Malbec dominated blends and they are quite good.
On the subject of Bordeaux blending, more California winemakers seem to be dedicating more of their land to Malbec for their Bordeaux style blends. While Malbec has been planted around Napa for some time, many of the big names are producing higher percentage Malbec components in their premium blends. Combined with other varietals that thrive in Napa, these red blends are a lot of fun to explore. And they vary year to year in their composition depending on that year’s growing conditions so the experience never gets old.
This is a quick overview to begin exploring Malbecs from all over the world. We are seeing more pop up from Washington State, Chile, other areas of California and Australia, which all should be fun to try.
Your Malbec Check List:
– Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina (I would try 3-4 different ones; this is the epicenter of Malbec, and at great prices)
– Malbec from Cahors (France)
– A red blend from Napa containing Malbec
Fast Fact: Argentinean Malbec is able to thrive on pure French roots (since Argentinean soil is resistant to the nasty vine killing pest phylloxera), making it some of the truest Malbec in the world.