You might recognize the name from your wine label and enjoy it in your glass, but how well do you really know malbec? Find out more about this globetrotting old-world grape with five fascinating facts. Discover some perfect dishes for pairing with malbec, and try for yourself by tasting our bottle recommendations.
1. Malbec is not originally from Argentina.
The grape was first planted in the Cahors region of France. The crops were plagued by pests and disease, which nearly wiped out the variety. Luckily, the cuttings had already been brought to Argentina—a less damp and warmer climate—in the 19th century, where they flourished.
2. It wasn't always called malbec.
The grape originally had a few different names: auxerrois, noir de pressac, and côt, and was known to medieval royalty in England and France as "the black wines of Cahors." The name was switched to malbec in the 1700s, as it was planted throughout France. In the 18th century, a Frenchman named Sieur Malbek began growing the grape in the Médoc region. Soon it was planted throughout France, and eventually the grape was renamed Malbec in his honor.
3. It was one of the five original Bordeaux grape varieties.
Cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot are the others. Because of the difficulties in growing the grape, its smaller quantities made it great for blending.
4. World Malbec Day is April 17.
The day officially celebrates Argentine governor Domingo Faustino Sarmiento tasking French agronomist Michel Pouget to bring grapevine cuttings to Argentina from France. The holiday now recognizes the worldwide popularity of the grape: It is grown in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, Italy, Madeira, Portugal, Spain, and the US.
5. Argentina dominates the malbec market.
The vines grow exceedingly well in the high desert climate of the Mendoza region. The country is the grapes’ top producer, with almost 100,000 planted acres.
Steak and chimichurri sauce is a classic Argentine matchup for malbec. However, the wine’s full-bodied fruitiness goes well with a variety of unexpected tastes. Try:
- Earthy flavors: roasted mushrooms, kale chips, and garlic aioli
- Smoky flavors: barbecue or grilled pork
- Funky, strong cheeses: Taleggio or Roquefort
- Fruity or rich desserts: blueberry pie or dark chocolate spice cake
- Alamos Malbec showcases the varietal’s signature currant and blackberry tastes, with toasty chocolate spice brought out by oak aging.
- Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec has a peppery, tannic bite and a touch of smoke. It is balanced by a fruit-forward blend of plum and black cherry.
- Girl & Dragon Malbec pairs juicy cherry and berry flavor notes with lush vanilla and fig undertones. Look for a hint of earthy leather at the finish.