Discovering Malbec Wine: A Guide to Argentina's Signature Grape

Malbec wine has gained popularity in recent years, thanks to its rich, dark fruit flavours and smooth, chocolatey finish. This full-bodied red wine, originating in France and thriving in Argentina, offers wine enthusiasts a unique and tantalizing experience. In this comprehensive guide, we will dive deep into the world of Malbec, from its origin and characteristics to its various styles, regions, and perfect pairings, with pointers to some of our best Malbec options online. 

The Origin of Malbec Wine

While Malbec is now synonymous with Argentina, its roots can be traced back to the French wine region. Initially a minor grape used in blending Bordeaux wines, Malbec found new life on Argentinian soil, where it became the country's signature grape.

Malbec's Fate in France

Malbec, also known as Auxxerois or Cot, originated in the southwestern region of France, particularly in Cahors. However, its popularity did not take off in France due to its susceptibility to pests and diseases, as well as its difficulty in growing in the French climate. As a result, French winemakers primarily used Malbec as a blending grape, rather than allowing it to shine as a single varietal.

The Resurrection of Malbec in Argentina

In 1868, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, a provincial governor, asked French botanist Miguel Pouget to bring Malbec vine cuttings to Argentina. The first Malbec vines were planted in Mendoza, a high-altitude region with plenty of sunshine and cold nights. Under these optimal conditions, Malbec thrived, shedding its weaknesses and becoming Argentina's most important grape.

Today, Argentinian Malbec is celebrated worldwide for its unique and bold flavours. Although French and Argentinian Malbecs share some common characteristics, the terroir, or environment where the grapes grow, significantly influences their texture and flavour.

Malbec Wine Characteristics

Argentinian Malbec is famous for its inky dark colour and full-bodied texture. The grape thrives in sunny climates and high altitudes, which help it develop its deep colour, robust tannins, and signature flavours.

The Taste Profile of Malbec Wine

Malbec wine exhibits a range of flavours, from jammy fruit notes to savoury and spicy undertones. Some common tasting notes include:

  • Dominant fruit flavours: pomegranate, raisin, black cherry, blackberry, plum, blueberry, raspberry
  • Other flavours: milk chocolate, mocha, molasses, coffee, cocoa, green stem, black pepper, tobacco, gravel
  • Oak influences: dill, coconut, vanilla, mocha, chocolate
  • Acidity: Medium
  • Tannin: Medium
  • Temperature: Slightly cool
  • Body: Full-bodied
  • Sweetness: Dry
  • Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 13.5 - 15%

Argentinian Malbec vs. French Malbec

While both French and Argentinian Malbecs share some common tasting notes, there are significant differences between the two:

  • Argentinian Malbec exhibits fruity flavours of black cherry, plum, and blackberry, with hints of tobacco, cocoa powder, leather, violet flowers, or milk chocolate, depending on the duration of oak aging.
  • French Malbec, on the other hand, features a more tart, leathery, and savoury flavour profile, with higher acidity and notes of black plum, tart currant, and black pepper.

These differences can be attributed to the terroir, which greatly influences the grapes' characteristics.

Known Regions for Malbec Wine Production

Malbec wine is primarily associated with Argentina, but it is also grown in several other regions around the world, including its original homeland of France.


Cahors, located in southwestern France, is the primary region for French Malbec production. Although Malbec is a minor component in Bordeaux blends, it has been produced in Cahors for centuries. The French Malbec is known for its tart, savoury flavours and higher acidity.


Argentina is the most prominent producer of Malbec, with Mendoza being the best-known region. The high-altitude vineyards in the Andes provide the perfect environment for the grape to develop its rich, dark fruit flavours and smooth texture. Other notable Argentinian Malbec-producing regions include Salta and San Juan, which can all be seen in our Argentinian Malbec collection

New Zealand

In New Zealand, Malbec is typically used as a minor component in Bordeaux-style blends. However, some winemakers in Hawke's Bay have experimented with producing 100% Malbec wines.


Although Malbec is mostly used as a blending component in Australia, 100% pure Malbec wines are becoming more widely available. The best Australian Malbec wines come from Langhorne Creek, Margaret River, and Clare Valley.

United States

Malbec has experienced slow yet steady growth in the United States. American winemakers initially became interested in Malbec when using it in Meritage wines (Bordeaux red blends). The primary Malbec-producing regions in the US are Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley.

Popular Malbec Wine Blends

Malbec is often used as a blending grape, creating unique and flavourful combinations with other varietals. Some popular Malbec blends include:

Malbec and Petit Verdot

This blend offers a complex and delicate floral fragrance with subtle hints of spices, toasty aromas, pink pepper, lavender, and spices. It feels fresh and lively on the palate, with a bright and concentrated fruity expression.

Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon

This blend features a rich aroma of vanilla, fruit cake, cacao, and stunning cassis. It is intense on the palate, leaving a spicy and fruity taste.

Malbec and Cabernet Franc

Combining Malbec and Cabernet Franc creates a dense, tannic wine with abundant black and red fruit flavours. The blend is predominantly influenced by Malbec, showcasing violet aromas and gamey, dark plum notes on the palate. There are no officially designated proportions, but Malbec is typically present in higher amounts, providing depth and body to the wine.

How to Enjoy Malbec Wine

To fully appreciate Malbec wine, consider the following tips on pairing, serving, and tasting:

Food Pairings

Malbec wine is easy to pair with various dishes due to its full-bodied nature and rich flavours. Some excellent food pairings include:

  • Meat: Malbec pairs well with lamb, steak, pork, poultry with dark meat, and fattier fish like salmon. Venison, ostrich, and bison are also great choices.
  • Sauces and spices: Barbecue, rustic, hearty sauces, and Asian spices complement Malbec wine.
  • Herbs: Malbec works well with green herbs like rosemary, vanilla bean, shallots, garlic, juniper berry, sage, and mint.
  • Vegetables: Dishes featuring mushrooms, chard, onion, tempeh, beet, and potatoes pair well with Malbec.
  • Cheese: Malbec can be paired with goat cheese, gorgonzola, gouda, blue cheese, manchego, and stilton.

Serving Temperature

While it is a common belief that red wines should be served at room temperature, Malbec benefits from being slightly chilled. Store your Malbec in a cooler area or place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving to experience its full flavours.


Full-bodied wines like Malbec are best served in wide-bowled glasses with a large surface area. This allows the wine's rich fruit, high acidity, and oak characteristics to shine. A larger surface also exposes the wine to more air, breaking down the tannins and making the wine softer and easier to drink.

A Brief History of Malbec Wine

Malbec, also known as Cot or Auxxerois, originated in the Sud-Ouest region of France. This thick-skinned grape is a natural cross between two lesser-known French varieties: Prunelard from Gaillac and Magdeleine des Charentes from Montpellier, the latter being the mother of Merlot.

Malbec played a significant role as a blending grape in Bordeaux. However, due to its poor resistance to fungal diseases and pests, it never gained prominence as a top grape. It wasn't until Malbec was introduced to Mendoza, Argentina, by French botanist Miguel Pouget in 1868 that it began to rise to fame. Today, Malbec is Argentina's most important grape variety, accounting for three-quarters of the country's vineyards.

Alternatives to Malbec Wine

If Malbec is unavailable or out of your budget, consider trying these alternative wines that share similar characteristics:


Both Malbec and Syrah originated in France and share many fruit flavour characteristics. Syrah gained popularity in Australia, where it was renamed Shiraz, while Malbec flourished in Argentina. Syrah is similar to Old World Malbec, sharing some Malbec notes of black pepper spice, olive, smoke, and even bacon fat.


Dolcetto is another medium-bodied alternative, featuring dark cherry and blackberry flavours that appeal to Malbec lovers. Dolcetto often has a rich texture due to its high levels of tannins. It is a great alternative for those who enjoy the taste of almonds and pairs well with Italian dishes like grilled chicken, cheesy pasta, and antipasto.


Bonarda, also known as Douce Noir, is a perfect alternative for those who enjoy fruity and fresh New World-style Malbecs. Although it is gaining popularity, it remains less well-known than Malbec. This grape is the second most widely planted variety in Argentina and is particularly popular among those who enjoy Chinese five-spice and the aroma of violets. Bonarda features fruity notes of plum, blueberry, and black cherry, with fewer tannins than Malbec. It is often unoaked but can develop sweet notes of figs and chocolates when aged in oak.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Malbec a good wine?

Malbec is a globally loved wine that offers a unique and flavourful experience, making it an excellent choice for wine enthusiasts.

How does Malbec wine taste?

Malbec is a full-bodied, dry wine with rich, dark fruit aromas and flavours of red plum, blackberry, and chocolate, along with hints of tobacco, vanilla, and oak.

What is the difference between Malbec and Merlot?

Merlot is generally drier and has more body than Malbec. It also features a leathery and smoky flavour, while Malbec offers a more fruity and tangy taste.

Is Malbec a cheap wine?

Malbec is an affordable and easy-to-drink wine, making it very popular among wine lovers seeking a budget-friendly option.

Why is Malbec so popular?

Malbec's popularity can be attributed to its affordability, easy-drinking nature, and unique flavour profile, which sets it apart from other red wines.

Is Malbec stronger than Cabernet Sauvignon?

Malbec can contain up to 15% ABV, while Cabernet Sauvignon usually has an ABV of 13.5% to 15%, making them relatively equal in strength.

Is Malbec high in acidity?

Malbec is a fairly low-acidity red wine, typically featuring high tannin levels but low acidity.

Do you drink Malbec warm or cold?

Ideally, Malbec should be chilled slightly before serving, either by storing it in a cooler area or placing it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to serving.

What does Malbec pair well with?

Malbec pairs well with a variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables, herbs, and spices, making it a versatile option for food pairings.

Should you age Malbec?

Quality Malbec wines are typically aged for 15-24 months prior to release, regardless of whether they are oaked or neutral oak/tank-aged.

Which country makes the best Malbec?

While Malbec originated in France, Argentina is widely regarded as producing the best Malbec wines, accounting for over 75% of the grape's global production.

How to serve Malbec wine?

The best way to serve Malbec is to chill it in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes before serving and using a wide-bowled glass to fully appreciate its flavours and aromas.

What type of wine is Malbec?

Malbec is a red wine known for its plump, dark fruit flavours and smoky finish. It ranks behind Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot in popularity.

Where is Malbec wine from?

Malbec wine originates from France but is predominantly grown in Argentina. It is also grown in other countries, including New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.

What does Malbec mean?

Malbec is a noun used for a black grape originally grown in the Bordeaux region of France and now primarily cultivated in Argentina and Chile.

In Conclusion

Malbec wine offers a unique and flavourful experience for wine enthusiasts, with its rich, dark fruit flavours and smooth, chocolatey finish. Whether you are new to Malbec or a long-time fan, this comprehensive guide provides valuable insights into the world of this fascinating grape variety. From its origins in France to its thriving success in Argentina, Malbec has left a lasting impression on the global wine stage. So, raise a glass and enjoy the captivating flavours of this full-bodied red wine.


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