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Wine 101

What is Malbec: Wine Description and Pairings

April 16, 2021

Written By Coravin

On April 17 we celebrate Malbec World Day. Malbec, a grape that hails from France but is mostly grown in Argentina – specifically Mendoza, San Juan, Lo Rioja, Catamarca – is known for its full body and medium-low acidity. Unlike Cabernet, Malbec doesn’t have a long finish and pairs well with leaner meats, lamb, wild rice and mushrooms, and even strong blue cheese. 

Origins of Malbec World Day

Argentina is often praised for having saved Malbec. On this day back in 1853, French agronomist Michel A. Pouget introduced Malbec to Argentina by way of the nation's first agricultural school. The team there set out to adapt French Malbec grapes to the climate and soil of Mendoza. Malbec World Day on April 17 serves as a symbol of the transformation of Argentina’s wine industry and marks the starting point for the development of Malbec in the region. 

Today, over 75% of all Malbec grapes are grown in Argentina amounting to over 112,000 acres of Malbec vines planted in Argentina. For scale, this is roughly 8 times the size of Manhattan. In 2020, those wineries exported nearly 130 million liters of Malbec which – crazy! – is enough to fill over 65 Olympic size swimming pools. 

Malbec flavors

When sipping on Malbec, you’ll notice bold fruit flavor and a chocolatey finish. When tasting Malbec, you might note down it’s soft mouthfeel and flavors like red plum, blackberries, vanilla, sweet tobacco, and cocoa. Those last three flavors – vanilla, tobacco, and chocolate – come out of the oak ageing process. Their boldness depends on the amount of time they spend in oak. More affordable Malbec ($10-20) may only get 4–6 months in oak whereas top-shelf Malbec ($50+) gets as much as 18–20 months in oak. No matter the oak-aging time, every glass of Malbec is sure to be smooth and fruity. 

Pour a glass of any Malbec and you’ll also notice a bright magenta rim, medium tannin, an opaque purple color, and aromas of red fruit. 

Quick facts about Malbec

Malbec is a very affordable wine. If you’re just trying it out for flavor, you can find a good quality Malbec for around $15. For a higher-end reserva or bottle from a high-quality producer, expect to spend $20-50. These higher price points reflect extended aging that brings out rich chocolatey flavors and a more velvet texture. For an exceptional Malbec, expect to spend over $50. 

As for serving temperature, Malbec is best served at room temperature (60-68°F) and would open up well with a 30-minute decant or pour from your Coravin aerator.

Not all wine is meant to age. As for Malbec, you can cellar it for 5-10 years tasting a bit every year or so using Coravin wine preservation systems. When serving, use one of our red or universal wine glasses. 

Malbec food pairings 

Malbec pairs well with a range of meats, strong cheeses, and earthy herbs and spices. Here are some meal ingredients we recommend: 

  • Meats: steak, turkey, pork, lamb

  • Cheeses: blue cheese, cheddar, Manchego, asiago

  • Vegetables: mushroom, roasted peppers, potato, eggplant, squashes, sautéed spinach

  • Herbs, spices, and sauces: sage, rosemary, cumin, pepper, shallot, Cajun spice, BBQ, mole sauce

Looking for ways to tie these all together? When it comes to pairing with Malbec, think salads, barbecue, Latin cuisine, and hearty dishes. Here are some of our favorite Malbec food pairings: 

  • Lamb and veggie kabobs

  • Classic cheeseburgers

  • BBQ pork ribs

  • Beef empanadas

  • Bolognese (lentils or beef)

  • Steak fajitas

  • Chickpea tagine

Drooling yet? We want to see which Malbec you’re sipping on. Share your wine drinking experiences with us on social, @Coravin.