Malbec - The Black Beauty
One of the best bets you will find on any wine list is malbec.
Malbec derives from the small town of Cahors, located in the southwest region of France. You will also find malbec in Bordeaux, where the grape is used mostly as a blend. Malbec seems to be a good candidate for blending—especially with wines naturally high in tannins and/or acidity.
Not that long ago, malbec made its way south to the wine growing regions of South America, especially in Argentina’s Mendoza region, which produces and exports the world’s leading malbec as a varietal, not a blend. One of the main reasons that malbec thrives in Argentina is the longer growing season, which allows grapes to ripen at their peak.
Malbec is similar to cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo. Many wine professionals refer to malbec as Argentina’s answer to Spain’s rioja—and we all know what happened to rioja (just try to find an inexpensive one today). Most malbecs are reasonably priced, although you can find some that are quite pricey.
Since the boom of malbec from Mendoza, many wine producers in Cahors are bringing malbec back. Malbec from Cahors is better known as the “black wine.” Centuries ago, Cahors was the only place malbec was found, but two destructive incidents—a phylloxera infestation and a big freeze—wiped out most of the local vineyards. In 1971, producers replanted malbec vines and they are just now getting the recognition they deserve. Malbec from Cahors is inky, full bodied, and powerful—able to age for many years.
In Bordeaux the grape is still mostly used in blending. In California producers believe that malbec is a suitable ingredient for a truly authentic meritage (an American term describing a red wine that is made from a blend of Bordeaux varietals, both red and white). There are also malbecs made in other US states as well as Chile, Uruguay, southern Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the Mediterranean countries.
Here is a list of malbec recommendations. Look for them at your favorite restaurant, wine shop, or purchase online direct from the winery.
Chateau de Chambert Cahors Malbec 2010
Made from vines located on the highest part of the plateau. A beautiful, perfumed wine, it shows an elegant side to Cahors, offering intense and juicy blackberry fruit that overrides the dark tannins. Enjoy with beef stew or pasta with wild boar.
Catena Zapata Alta Malbec 2010
Both elegant and complex with deep berry fruit, touches of violets and lavender, and hints of leather, spice, and vanilla. Layers of rich cassis—black currant—combined with licorice and pepper lead to a long silky finish. Serve with braised duck or grilled beef.
Doña Paula Estate Malbec 2010
Intense violet color. In the nose, aromas of red raspberry, black fruits, violets, and spices. Mineral and graphite notes. Great balance and freshness in the mouth with good concentration and medium structure. Soft tannins and persistent finish. Enjoy with venison and barbecue foods.
Viu Manent Malbec Reserva 2011
Produced in Chile, this earthy wine shows intense red color with scents of currant, plum, dark chocolate, and mocha leading to robust tastes of ripe berries. A rich and juicy wine that pairs well with dessert.
Septima Gran Reserva Malbec 2011
From Argentina showing rich ruby color with purple hues—complex and aromatic fragrances, with a pleasant oak taste complemented by flavors of violet, dark chocolate, and strawberry jam. This wine starts warm and sweet with tannic structure and good body and balance. A perfect companion for this wine is a high quality cigar.
Recuerdo Malbec 2011
Located on the eastern side of the Andes Mountains in Mendoza. A deep violet color, the wine opens with aromas of ripe black fruit, cola, and spicy herbs. The palate explodes with bright blackberry and dark cherry, finishing with floral notes. This wine pairs well with hearty dishes.
Viña Cobos Felino Malbec 2012
Deep ink reflections with soft floral aromas and strong dark berry, cherry, black currant, and vanilla flavor profiles. The wine is well balanced with good acidity and tannins. Pairs nicely with lamb, filet mignon, and roasts.
Clayhouse Vineyard Malbec 2011
A great value from Paso Robles on the central coast of California. Aromas of rose petals, black cherry, tobacco, and vanilla with popping plum flavors. A medium-bodied wine that pairs nicely with specialty cheeses, cured meats, and steak.