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Know Your Variety - Australian Malbec

Neglected for decades in France as a lesser blending grape, Malbec was resurrected and championed in Argentina as an excellent single varietal wine. It's now having a similar resurgence in Australia, with some excellent Australian Malbec wines appearing in the Clare ValleyLanghorne CreekMargaret River and Great Southern. To help us learn more about this plush and fruit driven red wine, we reached out to a few Australian Malbec experts with winemakers from Forest Hill WinesBremerton and Tamburlaine Organic Wines.

AUSTRALIAN MALBEC AT A GLANCE

Australian Malbec Wine Infographic Guide

THE VARIED ORIGINS OF MALBEC

Malbec (sometimes known as Côt and Auxxerois) originates from the French wine regions of Bordeaux and Sud-Ouest. However, it was historically viewed as more a blending grape and played second fiddle to the prized Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Grenache vines in those regions.

Malbec found its new home in Argentina, where it has been adapted and refined into an excellent single varietal wine style, with excellent examples from the Mendoza region. Today, 75% of the world's Malbec now hails from Argentina, often blended with a touch of Touriga Nacional.

MALBEC COMES TO AUSTRALIA

Rebecca Willson, winemaker at Bremerton Wines, argues that Malbec has a spiritual home in South Australia as it "was the first dry red variety ever planted in Langhorne Creek by The Potts Family of Bleasdale in the late 1800s". In fact, Bleasdale's first ever single varietal wine was a Malbec in 1961. However, the great red vine cull in the 1970s and 1980s removed many alternate varieties from vineyards across the country.

The recent trend of wine lovers searching for new and exciting wine styles to try, has given rise to a modern resurgence. Malbec is now the wine of the moment. Rebecca thinks this is because "the variety offers an alternative to Shiraz as our biggest consumed red varietal, it's berry driven and plush."

Malbec can be a difficult grape to grow, but today with better viticulture and better strains of the variety, it's thriving in moderate climates such as the Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek, Margaret River and Great Southern. Tamburlaine Organic Wines chief winemaker, Mark Davidson, notes that "just like in Argentina, the real lesson has been that the wine produced at higher altitudes of 800m to 1000m has really shone". As such, there is great promise for award winning Malbec from emerging cool climate regions such as Canberra or Orange, where Tamburlaine's excellent Malbec is sourced.

TASTING NOTES

With a similar weight to ShirazCabernet Sauvignon or Petit Verdot, Malbec has a big, juicy and plush flavour with a robust structure and moderately firm tannins. It has distinctive dark purple colour and notes of red plum, blueberry, vanilla, cocoa and an essence of sweet tobacco.

Forest Hill Wines chief winemaker, Liam Carmody, is rather fond of the "intense purple colour and fruit brightness" of their Malbec and notes that it has a "generally softer tannin structure than some other red grape varieties." For Bremerton's Rebecca Willson it's the "violet, currant purple fruits with velvety tannins, plushness and purity" of the variety.

MALBEC AND FOOD PAIRING

The bold flavours, robust structure and higher tannins of Malbec call for dishes with a bold flavour to match such as hard cheese, steak or even sausage such as this chickpea and chorizo hotpot recipe by Miguel Maestre. Our Argentinian beef steak with chimichurri sauce recipe is also a great way to round out an Argentinian themed dinner. Or for a vegetarian option, our spinach and cheese empanadas recipe matches well to a plush Malbec from Great Southern .

When it comes to Malbec food matches, Bremerton's Rebecca Willson prefers "charcoal barbecue of a great cut from your local butcher, or pulled pork sliders". For Forest Hill Wines' Liam Carmody, Australian Malbec means just one dish, "a rare steak sandwich!"

Recommended Recipe: Miguel Maestre's chickpea and chorizo hotpot

TRY AUSTRALIAN MALBEC TODAY

Explore Australian Malbec with these great examples that have all passed our rigorous Tasting Panel selection process with flying colours.

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Words by Mark Hughes on 30 May 2016
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Know Your Variety – Australian Grenache
Words by Ben Hallinan on 22 Sep 2017
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- Kevin Glastonbury, Winemaker, Yalumba Family Vignerons
Tasting Notes With a similar weight and tannin structure to light to medium bodied Shiraz, Grenache is light on the palate and is all about purity of fruit. With aromas like pomegranate, wild strawberries, violets and red fruits and a palate that’s restrained and fine in texture, it is often blended with Mataro/Mourvedre, which provides a heightened element of spice and tannin. But, with careful oak treatment, Grenache can produce be a splendid single varietal wine.

South Australia has old vines, this resource cannot be understated. We work with vines ranging from 50 to 90 years old. Grenache is extremely reflective of where it’s grown. In McLaren Vale, we see lighter bodied, more aromatic styles from Blewitt Springs and Clarendon. Down on the flats of Tatachilla, we see a far heavier, richer, full-bodied styles.

- Nathan Hughes, Willunga 100
Grenache food pairing   The heightened alcohol, medium tannin and low acidity that characterise Grenache mean it will work well with a range of dishes from game through to lighter dishes. For Kevin, the perfect match for Grenache is simple - “Pizza, always”. But, he is also fond of pairing it with “Sticky glaze duck with rocket and pear pizza. Pork belly, with buffalo mozzarella, balsamic onion, oregano and radicchio.” The notes of red plum, black cherry and raspberry also mean that Grenache is also a great match for many Asian-style dishes as long as they aren’t too spicy. As Nathan Hughes from Willunga 100 describes, “I love how lemongrass, soy and coriander work with Grenache.” Recommended Recipe: Stefano Manfredi’s roast spitchcock with bread and truffle stuffing Recommended Recipe: Bocconcini, cherry tomato and basil pizza
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