What is 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.
WHY IS MALBEC SO POPULAR?
An excellent blending grape and a powerhouse in its own right, Malbec features bold, plush flavours and a richness that drinkers of full-bodied reds love. It’s a great alternative to Shiraz and is super food-friendly, pairing perfectly with a variety of offerings, especially dishes with bold, rich characters.
World Malbec Day is celebrated on the 17th of April each year, with wine lovers worldwide raising a glass to this often under-appreciated and overshadowed variety.
Join us as we take a deep dive into juicy red depths to learn more about this delicious fruit-forward wine, and also check out our 7 reasons why you need to make room in your cellar for Malbec.
WHERE IS MALBEC FROM?
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 of a blending grape, commonly paired with Merlot and Petit Verdot, 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 IN AUSTRALIA
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.
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 our moderate climates. 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.
WHAT ARE THE BEST MALBEC REGIONS IN AUSTRALIA?
Malbec thrives in Australia’s moderate climate regions:
Cool climate regions are also producing quality expressions of Malbec:
WHAT DOES MALBEC TASTE LIKE?
Malbec has big, juicy and plush flavours 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.
WHAT WINE IS SIMILAR TO MALBEC?
Malbec is a full-bodied red wine has a similar weight and characteristics to Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon or Petit Verdot.
Are you watering at the mouth for some Malbec yet? Take an in-depth exploration of the styles being produced in Australia with our Malbec Member Tasting, and explore our range of delicious expressions from some of this country’s local magicians of Malbec to explore and celebrate this colourful variety for yourself.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MALBEC AND MERLOT?
Merlot’s flavours are a combination of black and red fruits with an herbaceous element, whereas Malbec’s flavours are a combination of black and purple fruits with herbaceous elements.
Merlot is a medium to full-bodied wine with soft tannins, whilst Malbec is usually full-bodied in style and does have more prominent tannins when compared to Merlot.
WHAT FOODS PAIR WELL WITH MALBEC?
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, and this food-friendly drop is also a perfect partner to a charcuterie or cheese board.
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!"
ARGENTINEAN BEEF STEAK WITH CHIMICHURRI SAUCE
MIGUEL MAESTRE’S CHICKPEA AND CHORIZO HOTPOT
SPINACH AND CHEESE EMPANADAS