In honor of World Malbec Day, we’re continuing our “Tasty Twosome” series (check out the Pinot Noir edition!) with a red wine that’s as humble as it is compelling.
What is Malbec?
Malbec has become practically synonymous with Argentina, and the country’s vineyards do indeed account for about 75 percent of Malbec produced today, but wine nerds also know Malbec as one of the six grapes legally allowed in red Bordeaux. (The others? Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.) Malbec is also grown in other areas of France (primarily Cahors and the Loire Valley) and in the United States, and there are a smattering of producers in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Bolivia, Mexico, Italy, and Canada.
Malbec is known for its striking appearance: the wine is almost inky, with swirling purple glints and often a magenta rim (typically used by blind tasters as an indicator the wine is, in fact, Argentine), and it’s just as rich – not to mention juicy! – on the palate. What does Malbec taste like? Its characteristics shift depending on the growing area and producer, but in general:
- Fruit Aromas: Raspberry, cherry, blackberry, plum
- Non-Fruit Aromas: Black pepper, leather, mineral, graphite, tobacco, cocoa powder
- Medium+ Acidity
- Medium Alcohol
- Low-High Tannins
In warm areas, Malbec tends to get flabby and anemic. Too cold a climate and it can lean towards vegetal.
Okay, on to the important bit… What should we be eating with our incredible, easily imbibe-able Malbec?! Here are our top 5 pairings for Malbec:
The prevalence and popularity of lamb in Argentina – and Patagonia in particular – makes pairing it with Malbec a total no-brainer. Adding fruit to the mix is next-level brilliance.
Try This Recipe: Lamb Tagine with Prunes, Olives, and Raisins
Save your fussy filets for another day, folks. Malbec deserves a steak fit for a gaucho, and even if your idea of “out on the range” is more golf course than outback, you’ll still appreciate the way the meat’s inherently sweet flavor and grill-marked crust plays with both the fruit and cowboy-worthy leather and tobacco notes of the wine.
Try This Recipe: Steak with Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce
Malbec plays extraordinarily well with pasta, but add tomato to the mix and you’re instigating an acid bath of science fiction-level proportions. Just don’t. You’re welcome. Instead, stick to basic recipes that don’t rely too heavily on cream and let the pasta itself shine.
Try This Recipe: Cacio e Pepe (Pasta with Black Pepper and Pecorino Romano)
It’s hard to create a Malbec pairing that makes vegetarians happy, because, well, the wine just goes so darned well with meat. That being said, caramelized onions take on the same kind of umami notes that draw Malbec to anything and everything with a face, and with a meat-free meal you’ll get the added benefit of ethical eating and a conscious burdened only by the knowledge that you finished that last bottle all by yourself.
Try This Recipe: Vegetarian French Onion Soup
Milk chocolate is a no-no with Malbec, but drink a glass with dark chocolate and you won’t need 50 shades of anything else for a long, long time.
Try This Recipe: Lia’s Dark Chocolate Truffles
Best Picks: Malbec From Around the World
- California: Titus Malbec, 2012 – $45 BUY ME
- Argentina: Luigi Bosca, 2012 – $18 BUY ME
- Argentina: Catena Alta, 2012 – $49 BUY ME
- Cahors, France: Chateau Gautoul, 2009 – $17 BUY ME
- Chile: Vistamar Sepia Malbec Reserva, 2013 – $10 BUY ME