Grape Varieties M-N Malbec

Malbec Wine

Malbec is a black-skinned grape variety native to southwestern France (specifically the area around Cahors), but now better known as the iconic wine grape of Argentina. Through its success in the vineyards of Mendoza, in a few short decades Malbec has shot from relative obscurity to international fame, simultaneously bringing newfound attention and respect to Argentina as a wine-producing nation.

Malbec typically ripens midway through the growing season and produces small, intensely colored grapes. As it is so sensitive to its growing environment, the level of ripeness has a considerable effect on the structure of the eventual wine. Broadly speaking, French Malbec tends to be more meaty, rustic and tannic, while examples from Argentina seem to be uniformly rich, ripe, jammy and juicy. On both sides of the Atlantic, Malbec wines are generally aged in oak to enhance the wine's structure and aging potential.

A mature Malbec vine in Mendoza

In France, Malbec is the grape of Cahors. It must constitute a minimum of 70 percent of any AOC Cahors wine, accompanied by rich, round Merlot and rustic, tannic Tannat. It is also a common ingredient in red wines from Bordeaux, as a constituent of the classic Bordeaux Blend. In both of these regions the variety has traditionally gone by its local name – Cot – but, due to the success of Malbec in Argentina, it is increasingly known by this more internationally recognized name. In the Loire Valley, Malbec is blended with Cabernet Franc and Gamay, sometimes as part of a sparkling Saumur wine.

The 20th Century presented some significant setbacks for Malbec as a vine variety. Its importance in Bordeaux was significantly reduced after the great frost of 1956, which killed off many of the region's oldest vines. In the years following this, most vignerons chose to replant their vineyards not with Malbec, but with more reliable, economically viable varieties such as Merlot. Malbec suffered similar losses during Argentina's national vine-pull scheme in the late 1980s, during which a vast number of Malbec vines (including some of the South America's oldest) were uprooted.

Susceptibility to frost and coulure has done little to endear the variety to European vignerons, but in the higher, drier climes of South America, Malbec has really come into its own. Argentinian Malbec vines produce a wide range of wine styles. At lower altitudes, the variety's skins tend to be thinner, and the fruit soft and supple – ideal for rosés and mass-produced reds (carbonic maceration is sometimes used to create an approachable, light red wine for summer). Further up, on the lower slopes of the Andes Mountains, the variety develops a thicker skin and a deeper concentration of flavor. Wines from these altitudes (particularly above 3000ft/1000m) are more aromatic and have intense, vibrant coloring, and rank among the most respected of all South American wines. Argentina's very highest vineyards, in the Salta province, reach altitudes of almost 10,000ft (3050m) above sea level, and are among the very highest in the world. These are typically planted with Malbec, along with the nation's iconic white-wine variety Torrontes.

Malbec forms part of the Meritage blend in the United States, and has a strong presence in California. In Australia and New Zealand, it is frequently blended with the softer, less tannic Merlot, to produce bright, fruit-driven wines against a backbone of oak. Plums and violets are common flavor descriptors.

Synonyms include: Cot, Cahors, Auxerrois, Malbeck.

Food matches include:

  • Sirloin of Ibérico pork
  • Braised lamb shoulder with roasted parsnips
  • Fillet steak with chimichurri

Here's a look at Malbec in its adopted homeland...

Production by region Expand/collapse

Most Popular Malbec Wine

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Region
Popularity
Score
Avg Price
Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino, Uco Valley, Argentina Uco Valley 656th 93 $107
Catena Zapata 'Catena' Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza 756th 90 $19
Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard 'River Stones' Malbec, Gualtallary, Argentina Gualtallary 955th 94 $155
Catena Zapata 'Angelica Zapata Alta' Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza 969th 90 $50
Catena Zapata Nicasia Vineyards Malbec, La Consulta, Argentina La Consulta 1,370th 93 $90
Catena Zapata 'Catena Alta' Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza 1,453rd 92 $46
Vina Cobos 'Cobos' Marchiori Estate Malbec, Perdriel, Argentina Perdriel 1,791st 93 $260
Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard 'Fortuna Terrae' Malbec, Gualtallary, Argentina Gualtallary 1,933rd 94 $113
Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza 2,141st 89 $18
Familia Zuccardi 'Finca Piedra Infinita', Altamira, Argentina Altamira 2,249th 94 $138
Bodega Aleanna 'El Enemigo' Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza 2,283rd 91 $25
San Pedro de Yacochuya 'Yacochuya', Cafayate, Argentina Cafayate - Calchaqui Valley 2,398th 91 $40
Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard 'Mundus Bacillus Terrae' Malbec, Gualtallary, Argentina Gualtallary 2,431st 95 $271
Opi a.k.a Rodolfo Sadler Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza 2,565th 86 $14
Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Malbec, Gualtallary, Argentina Gualtallary 2,657th 92 $105
Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira Malbec, Uco Valley, Argentina Altamira 2,758th 93 $112
Clos La Coutale, Cahors, France Cahors 2,790th 87 $17
Trapiche Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza 2,923rd 85 $7
Luca Malbec, Uco Valley, Argentina Uco Valley 2,944th 91 $32
Catena Zapata 'D.V. Catena' Malbec - Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza 2,999th 89 $29
Trapiche Oak Cask-Reserve Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza 3,020th 87 $10
Catena 'Alamos' Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza 3,152nd 88 $10
Kaiken Ultra Malbec, Uco Valley, Argentina Uco Valley 3,178th 89 $19
Achaval Ferrer Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza 3,271st 90 $24
Chateau du Cedre 'Le Cedre', Cahors, France Cahors 3,322nd 91 $37
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To see how Wine-Searcher uses average pricing and professional wine critic scores on this page, please see Average Wine Prices and Wine Scores. To find out about popularity, please see Wine Ranks.
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