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 Valley, Langhorne Creek, Margaret 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 Wines, Bremerton and Tamburlaine Organic Wines.
AUSTRALIAN MALBEC AT A GLANCE
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.
With a similar weight to Shiraz, Cabernet 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.