Lost grape? Forgotten varietal? Either way, Malbec is now definitely found. This little-known grape-one of five allowed in the blend for French red Bordeaux–is essentially an afterthought in its homeland these days. However, in one of those quirks of climate and geography, the grape thrives in Argentina, and has staged a comeback. Malbec is to Argentina what Shiraz is to Australia: a signature grape that almost single-handedly is putting the country on our wine map.
Flavors and aromas: This deep purple wine appeals to novice red lovers and fans of "serious" wines alike, striking a nifty balance of dark fruits (blackberry, black cherry), gritty but manageable tannins, and hints of chocolate, earth and toasty oak. Even at low price points, Argentine Malbecs have the stuffing to outmuscle other reds.
Malbec's opaque purple color is an indication of its dark, inky character. Prominent plantings:
The best vineyards are centered on the Mendoza region, where grapes enjoy hot days and cool nights in the foothills of the majestic Andes (whose runoffs also provide irrigation). Its success in Argentina likely will prompt more plantings in California, Chile, and Australia as well. Pairing with food:
Try it with grilled meat (especially steak), burgers, or pizza for a unique slice of the brave New World of wine. Insider tip:
Malbec is becoming increasingly popular because it packs the red wine wallop that fits perfectly with steak, but with better bang-for-buck value than better-known Cabernets.