Malbec wine is a dry French red wine with full, rich taste. It is renowned for its full-bodied flavour and notes of floral liquorice. The name, Malbec, comes from the wine’s grape variety, originally from the South West region of France. Malbec is among the six grape varieties that can be mixed with Bordeaux grapes in the wine-making process.
The Viticulture of Malbec
Malbec is among the most sensitive wine grape varieties. It is susceptible to mildew, coulure, and rot if cultivated in the wrong conditions. Malbec does well in high elevation, but cannot produce enough acidity in low elevation. The best climate for Malbec is high elevation, where the temperature swings dramatically from day to night.
Malbec grapes are best for wine when they have been grown to a small yield. It is possible to cultivate Malbec to yield a high volume of fruit, however, this has been shown to shallow and simplify the taste. So, the best Malbecs are grown in smaller quantities.
Malbec by Region
Malbec produces the most reliable and high-quality grapes in South West France (and Argentina). Though, quite different in their topography and ecosystem, Malbec does well in a wide range of soil types. However, the home of Malbec, in the South West of France, is filled with limestone-rich soil. The combination of high elevation, varied temperatures, and high soil acidity lend to Malbec’s dark, bold, tannic flavour.
Today, Argentina and France produce the most highly recognised Malbecs in the world. Though California is among the three largest producers, France and Argentina are considered the mainstays of Malbec. And all Malbecs have very different flavours.
No matter the region of the world that your bottle of Malbec comes from, there is a tell-tale sign of this wine. After taking your first sip from a mine glass, if you see a light magenta colour around the rim, you’re drinking a Malbec.
French Malbec has a starkly different taste than that of Argentinian Malbec. Whereas Argentinian Malbec demonstrates strong fruit flavours, French Malbec presents prominent notes of currant, black plum, savoury, and bitters. Secondary notes of the French Malbec include black pepper and a distinctive spice.
French varieties have a much higher tannin percentage and a lower alcohol content than that of Argentinians. The French Malbec’s limestone-rich soil makes for the high acidity necessary to produce these savoury notes, as well, as the French varieties plump grapes, as opposed to Argentina’s smaller Malbec grapes.
French Malbec grapes have historically been used in combination with Bordeaux grapes. Malbec provided the deep inky colour and fruity notes to Bordeaux. Malbec is responsible for the full-bodied flavour of many inexpensive red wine blends.