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Malbec Red Wine Variety

Malbec was a relatively forgotten red wine variety in Australia until about a decade ago, but thanks to Argentina there is now a great deal of interest in the variety.

Malbec GrapesMalbec Grapes By Ian L (originally posted to Flickr as Vines) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Malbec in France and In Argentina

Malbec's home is the Cahors Region in South West France. In that region it makes rich dark wines referred to as "black wines". These reached legendary status in pre-Phylloxera times, but the Cahors region has taken a long time to recover from that disaster. Only in recent decades have the Cahors wines regained more than local recognition.

In Cahors the variety is also called Cot, or Auxerrois. Other synonyms include Pressac, Pied Rouge, Jacobain, Grifforin.

See this article about the Black Wines of Cahors

Malbec is also used as a minor blending variety by some Bordeaux wineries.

In Argentina Malbec served as the "workhorse" variety for many years, producing ordinary everyday drinking varieties.

The opinion of the wines was so low that there were vine pull schemes to get rid of them, but fortunately wise heads prevailed.  By the 1990s  it was discovered that with a little care and modern technology Malbec could produce acceptable wines at a price point in the North American and European markets.

Soon an export boom began as Argentinian Malbec replaced Australian Shiraz and Chilean Cabernet as the value for money imported wine.

Riding on this success many Argentinian winemakers are now making excellent premium Malbec wines.

The Vineyard at the End of the World : Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec, by Ian Mount. Click to see how you can get your copy with free worldwide delivery

malbec in Australia

Wine Regions where the Malbec variety is used in Australia

The variety is certainly less common in Australia than it was a couple of decades ago, but there is some evidence that it may be making a comeback.

Until the 1980s Malbec was used as blending material with Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or both. The role of blending partner with Cabernet has been supplanted by Merlot.

There has always been a few varietal Malbecs around but the variety was fading away until the past decade when a few enthusiasts have been giving the variety more attention.

Want to try some Malbec?

If you would like to compare some Australian Malbecs it would be good to get a mixed case.

  • You can make up your own mix of Malbecs from different producers in different regions.
  • Vinodiversity's online wine partner have a great range.
  • You can browse the list and make your selection.
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The taste of Malbec

Some Malbec wines, particularly those from Cahors are particularly dark in appearance.

When you taste the wine though you may be surprised at the smoother flavour, although many have firm tannic structure. These tannins of course indicate that the wine is probably suitable for ageing.

Rich, gamey, tannic, blackberry, damson, violets...

These are some of the descriptors for these wines used on De Long's Wine Grape Varietal Table

A dark purple colour, a thrilling damson and violet aroma , a lush fat rich fruit flavour and a positively soothing ripe tannic structure

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Malbec and food

The two homes of Malbec give some clues for what foods you might consider.

Cahors is in South West France where the classic dish is cassoulet - a rustic haricot bean based stew that includes sausages, confit of duck and maybe some pork and other meats.

Argentina is the home of Beef and BBQs, or assado. So you might accompany your Malbec with grilled steak, sausages or ribs.

See Daring Pairings for more suggestions.

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