Grape of the Week: Malbec
By: Jeff S Cameron
Posted: Feb. 25, 2013

 [Photo: Robert Mondavi Malbec Grapes]


Malbec is one of the six grapes allowed in the production of Bordeaux red wines. Its dark inky color and robust tannins are balanced by dark fruit flavors and herbal aromas. In its home country of France, Malbec has recently been used more as a blending grape, although with the success of the varietal in Argentina and elsewhere, it is coming back into its own.


Malbec, or Côt, as it is more commonly known in France, likely originated in the Cahors region of Southwestern France. The grape shares a common mother with Merlot, which helps to explain the rich fruit flavors of black fruit that are most commonly tasted in a Malbec wine. The name Côt, is fading as the popularity of Argentinean Malbec increases across the world. Even in Cahors, the local wine industry has embraced the recent success of the grape as produced by Argentina and renamed their varietal Malbec. The name Malbec likely comes from the name of the person who brought the grape from Cahors to Bordeaux.


A mid-ripening grape with a tendency towards watered-down high yields it also has a susceptibility to coulure and other frost and cold related diseases. Malbec shows best in limestone and sandy soils, where temperatures stay warm throughout the growing season and yields are kept low to improve flavor and quality. Though there are differences between grapes grown in different regions, Malbec should universally present rich flavors and dark inky colors. Cahors or French style Malbec tends towards more herbaceous and astringent flavors while those from Argentina are often softer on the palate and sometimes a little fruitier which a touch of gaminess.


Malbec was brought to Argentina in 1868 by a French engineer and after some time, found its way to the Mendoza Valley and its ultimate success. Mendoza Valley’s soil, warm, dry climate and its range of altitude is a perfect cradle for this thin skinned grape to grow in. The wines produced in Mendoza, though most often softer than the traditional French Côt wines, have shown themselves able to mature as well as their old world competitors. They feature an earthiness that adds complexity to the plum and berry flavors and makes this an excellent food wine.


 [Tapiz Malbec / Credit: Justin Otto]


As a varietal that some refer to as a rustic Merlot, it is a versatile wine that pairs with an amazing variety of foods, including some that challenge other wines such as spicy, sweet  barbeque and spicy Mexican fare. Everything from simple stews and roast fowl to a grilled steak are a fair match for a Malbec. It stands up well to sweet and smoky flavors as well as spice and is the recommended match for spicy sauces from the Southwest, Mexico, Italy or even India.



Name: Malbec

Species: vitis vinifera

Origin: France

Color:  Red wine (purple-black grape)

Other names: Agreste, Ausseres, Auxerrois, Auxerrois de Laquenexy, Auxerrois des Moines de Picpus, Auxerrois du Mans, Balouzat, Beran, Besparo, Blanc de Kienzheim, Bouyssalet Bouyssaledes, Cahors, Calarin, Cauli, Claverie noire, Costa Rosa, Costa Rossa, Costo roujo, Côt, Côt de Bordeaux, Côt de Pays, Côt de Touraine, Côt rouge, Côt à Queue rouge, Côt à Queue verte, Cote rouge, Cotes rouges, Doux noir, Estrangey, Etranger, Etrangey, Franc Moreau, Gourdaux, Gourdoux, Grelot de Tours, Grifforin, Gros noir, Gros Pied rouge, Grosse Merille, Guillan, Hourcat, Jacobain, Jacobin, Luckens, Lutkens, Magret, Malbech, Malbeck, Malbek, Margrot, Medoc noir, Monrame, Mouranne, Moustere, Navarien, Navarin, Negre de Prechac, Negre Doux, Negrera, Noir de Chartres, Noir de Pressac, Noir Doux, Nyar de Presak, Oeil de Perdrix, Parde, Perigord, Pied de Perdrix, Pied Doux, Pied noir, Pied rouge, Pied Rouget, Piperdy, Plant d'Arles, Plant de Meraou, Plant de Roi, Plant du Roi, Prechat, Pressac, Prunieral, Quercy, Queue rouge, Quille de Coq, Quille de Coy, Raisin de Co, Romieu, Saint-Emilion, Soumansigne, Teinturier, Teinturin, Terranis, Tinturin, Vesparo, Vesparol Notable Regions: France, Argentina, United States, Chile, Australia, Italy, Turkey, New Zealand, Mexico, Israel, and South Africa

Common Food Pairings:  Pairs well with all types of red meat, Game, BBQ sauces, stews, and spicy Mexican food

Tags: Malbec

No Comments. Login or Signup to be first.