Virgin Wines: Malbec
With it's spiritual home in Cahors in France, and it's adopted home in Argentina, this globetrotting red grape makes a variety of big fruity wines. Try Malbec when you want bramble-fruits, damsons, and plenty of flavour and body.
Old World Origins
Malbec was once planted throughout Bordeaux, but fell out of favour after 75% of the crop was destroyed by frost in 1956. These days it's only used in the right bank appellations of Bourge and Blay to make early drinking reds.
Malbec truly shines in Cahors in the South West of France. Here it makes inky-dark tannic rich wines. These wines are so full and so strong they are known as the Black Wines of Cahors, and must be made with a minimum 70 % Malbec, and often makers will use more than this. Other grapes partnering Malbec in Cahors wines include Tannat and Merlot.
Grape of Many Names
You may also see Malbec being sold as Cot in the South West of France, and by some Argentinean makers producing high-end wine. In Bordeaux it's also known as Pressac, and in Cahors, you'll find it being called Auxerrois. Don't be fooled by the disguise, all these wines are made from the lovely Malbec grape.
In 1868 Professor Pouet introduced Malbec cuttings from Bordeaux to Argentina and it's taken to its new home Argentina like a duck to water, the extra sunlight and fantastic soils giving it extra depth, flavour and vigour. Malbec is a sun-seeking soul, which basks in the sparking Argentinean sunshine. Malbec wines in Argentina are less tannic than their French equivalents and show more fruit and heat. For typical New World style wines, high in flavour, fruit and alcohol, choose wines from the central region of Mendoza. Look to the cooler climate Rio Negro for drier, Old World styles with the potential to age well. Like so many other grape varieties in Argentina, Malbec has found a new spiritual home.
Malbec grows just about anywhere. You can find it in Chile, Brazil, Italy, Madeira, Portugal, where it's called Tinta Amerala, Spain, USA and Australia, as well as France and Argentina.
Cook a Cow
Mighty Malbec is a mean meat wine. Argentina is big on beef and great with grills so try Argentinean Malbec with any of these. A good portion of roasted vegetables would also go down well. The sweetish flavour of sticky ribs reacts well to big fruity Malbecs. Cahors wines and the more tannic Old World styles from Argentina are better with plainer, chewier meats, such as roast beef.