Malbec is a full-bodied red wine that has become one of Argentina’s most planted grape varieties. It is enjoyed worldwide for its plump dark-fruit flavors and hint of smokiness - making it a popular pairing at Manila’s steakhouses - and is a more affordable alternative to Cabernet Sauvignons or Syrahs. In fact, it's a great red wine for wine beginners as it isn't as bold as others but will still give that classic red wine profile.
In this article we answer the key questions you might have about Malbec: What is Malbec wine? What does Malbec wine taste like? What foods can you pair with Malbec wine? How do you serve Malbec wine?
Malbec may be lesser known than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, but it has an interesting story. Almost a “risen from the ashes” history if you will. Traditionally, Malbec wine was grown and produced in France. But, it struggles in the cooler climate. Then in the 1950’s the entire crop was almost completely destroyed due to adverse weather conditions in France.
Luckily this thick skinned grape was brought over to Argentina. Thanks to a more favorable climate, Malbec grapes thrived. They now take up a majority of the country’s vineyards. It is this Argentinian variety of Malbec that most people around the world will be familiar with.
Even though they are from the same grape, French Malbec and Argentinian Malbec vary in taste due to the different climates they are grown in. While the French variation is more tart and savory, the Argentinian is more plummy and soft.
A general rule of thumb is that cooler climate Malbecs will lean more towards red cherry and raspberry flavors. Warmer climate Malbecs on the other hand will have more plum and blackberry flavors running through.
But let’s keep it simple. If you’re going to drink Malbec wine, you should expect a jammy and fruity wine with savory notes (such as coffee, leather, and black pepper). In fact, this flavor profile is what makes Malbec such a great entry red wine for new wine lovers. It allows you to experience what red wine has to offer without overpowering your taste buds as it is generally less bold than other red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon.
What makes Malbec such a great wine is its versatility. It can pair with almost anything, from appetizers to main course to even dessert (by this we mean a nutty cheese or even a cheesecake - but opt for something on the more rich end to complement the wine).
Like most red wines, Malbec goes well with red meats. But as it does have a quicker finish than other reds you should look to leaner cuts of meat to avoid overwhelming the wine. Taking that in mind, why not try pairing this wine with bistek tagalog or beef mechado. With its Argentinian roots and their love for meat, a Malbec would also go well with asado or a juicy steak.
If you’re in the mood for a vegetarian option to pair with Malbec you can try a mushroom pasta or perhaps a bean burger. Malbec wines would also go well with a grilled blue cheese sandwich - if that’s something that interests you. Another option could be a couscous or rice stuffed bell peppers. The key thing is to lean more towards savory or umami options rather than anything bitter to get the best flavors from the wine.
For those looking to have a wine and cheese night with Malbec wines you should look to have funky and rich cheeses on offer. Blue cheese would go great with Malbec but if you hate blue cheese there are other options that are less polarizing. You can look to a sharp cheddar cheese or a nutty manchego to complement the flavors in Malbec.
Now to serving Malbec wine. Even though some people may like to serve red wine at room temperature, that isn’t always the best way to bring out all its flavors. Before serving Malbec, put in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to chill before serving. You may also want to decant or aerate Malbec wine to bring out all the aromas and flavors it has to offer.
If you want to get fancy, you can serve Malbec in a wide-mouthed wine glass or a standard red wine glass. This will allow you to experience the full fruity aromas whilst also balancing out the “spiciness” of the wine.
But, we know not everyone has the budget for a different wine glass for every type of wine - yes, there is a glass for each type - so enjoy this wine with any glass you have on hand, or straight from the bottle, we won’t judge.
Now that you have the key facts about Malbec wine the only thing left to do is to taste it. Use our points here as a guideline to help you discover the different tastes and aromas. There's no hard and fast rule to tasting or drinking wine and you don't have to love all wine varieties. But if you are curious to learn more about wine, we encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try different varieties and different wine brands. This will help you discover what you like and what you don't and to appreciate the differences between each wine.