I often introduce friends to new grape varieties to try, based on listening to what they already drink. Once I gave Malbec as a tip to a friend who loved robust full bodied reds. A year later, we met again and he thanked me, saying “he’d drunk nothing else since”. At the time I felt a little sad, I didn’t meant to create a Malbec junkie. But I know he isn’t alone. This seems to be a grape that captures the heart of many a wine lover. And I think I know why, the styles coming from Argentina are reliably satisfying with their inky dark colour, violet perfumed aroma and densely fruited palate. And even the bargain basement options punch above their weight in flavour. So it really is the sort of grape you can rely on.
But Malbec is a relatively new kid on the block. Historically it was the grape best known for making Cahors wine in France, but here the cooler climate brings out a totally different style, more leafy and herbal. And the grape was also used is a minor part of Bordeaux blends. It was only when Argentina started to emerge as a wine producing country in the 1980s that the grape found fame. The sunny climate and cooling Andes mountain seem to bring the best out of this wine, giving intensity to the fruit, bright perfume and freshness, aided by the cooler night time conditions.
The Uco Valley in Mendoza is becoming the best region for this grape having fabulous rocky soils and cooling mountain air. The best sub regions in Uco to look out for on a label are: Tupungato, Alta Mira, Gualtallary and La Consulta. The more central area of Lujan de Cuyo is warmer and produces the fruitiest styles.
A full bodied red, the dark and thick skins produce a wine with heavy texture, acidity is moderate therefore warm climates with altitude or cooling influences help it retain freshness. A grape that takes well to oak, having the intensity of fruit to match it, often bringing out milk chocolate flavours. Aromatic in style with violet perfume, the fruit tends to be plum, raspberry and there is a tendency to exotic spice characters enhanced when in company of oak.
Tannat, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Carignan, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Touriga Nacional
France: Cahors (100% of blend) Bordeaux (<20% of blend)
Argentina: Mendoza, Salta, Patagonia
Steak, barbeque meats, pulled pork/hog roast, burgers, tacos & fajitas