Friday, April 17th is World Malbec Day! Many grapes have their own internationally recognized days such as November 12 for Tempranillo, December 4 for Cabernet Franc, and even October 10 for Pinotage. Unfortunately, some poor grapes like Viognier, Gewürztraminer, and Blaufränkisch are left out of these celebrations. In fact, Blaufränkisch has only an ‘awareness day,’ and that makes the grape feel like some sort of endangered Austrian bird. Malbec’s day in the spotlight has a compelling story behind it, so let’s dive in and toast to Malbec as a versatile grape that we absolutely love at The Wine Outlet. Also, check out our virtual tasting video and pairing ideas at the end of the post and sip with us!
In 2011, the organization Wines of Argentina designated April 17th “Día Mundial del Malbec,” which honors the efforts of the Argentine Government to grow its wine industry by working with French winemakers. What resulted was Malbec finding its second home in Argentina. Argentine Malbec’s popularity grew rapidly in the United States, particularly in the 1990’s, and now, when we think of Malbec, our minds often dart to Argentina.
The Original Home
While Malbec has its charming Southern Hemisphere winter getaway home in Mendoza, the grape is French in origin. Southwestern France, in particular, is where Malbec gained its fame. It is a common blending grape in the wines of Bordeaux (though this is trending downward), but around the town of Cahors, which is North of Toulouse and Southeast of Bordeaux, is where Malbec takes center stage.
Source: Wine Folly
What is most important for the Malbec grape itself in Southwestern France is Cahors’s climate. Malbec is a touch tricky to get to fully ripen. Merlot and even Cabernet Sauvignon are easier to ripen than the thick-skinned Malbec. Cahors has a warmer climate than Bordeaux, allowing the Malbec vines to gain access to the sunlight and warmth necessary to produce riper fruit flavors and smoother tannins. These wines are often crafted with neutral French oak, meaning the barrels do not impart the vanilla, nutmeg, baking spices, and clove that you might find in new French oak. What results is a wine with a vibrancy of darker fruits such as blackberries, plums, and black currant. There is often a more savory quality to these wines with more meaty notes and an herbaceous character that lends layers of complexity. Our Chateau Laur Cahors exudes these qualities, and at $11.99, this is a fantastic way to learn more about French Malbec and your palate.
From France to Argentina
So, how is Cahors different from Malbec in Mendoza? There are a huge number of factors that are at play when it comes to different flavor profiles of the same grape in different regions, but here, let’s focus on two elements: location and winemaker influence.
Flechas de los Andes Winery…Source: Mendoza.travel
Mendoza, Argentina is a high-altitude region with some vineyards surpassing 10,000 feet in elevation! This means that vines have excellent access to sunlight, allowing the Malbec berries not only to ripen, but ripen slowly. This is a bit like putting BBQ into a slow cooker. Just like slowly cooked meats, the components of the grape get to know each other and integrate, creating a delicious wine that, frankly, would go well with roast meats (I’m also really hungry right now). These wines are extremely food-friendly with bright acid from the elevation, smooth tannins, and a dark fruit-forward profile that makes them so delicious to wine drinkers around the globe. A great example we carry is the Gauchezco Reserve Malbec. With 92 points from James Suckling and a price of only $12.99, drink this wine side-by-side with our Cahors to see where your preference lies!
The final element we want to discuss related to Argentine Malbec is winemaker influence. This is a key factor for the flavor profile of any wine, but, as Malbec was transported to Argentina by French winemakers, let’s briefly discuss their influence on Argentina’s staple grape. Our 2013 Flechas De Los Andes Gran Malbec is an excellent example for this. This bottle has spent 18 months in 30% new French oak, which essentially means that it has marinated in the oak for a year and half, allowing not only flavors of vanilla and spices to bleed into the juice, but the oak maturation will soften the tannins over time. Malbec is a highly tannic wine (it will likely cause a drying sensation, particularly in the front of your mouth), and oak aging lets small amounts of oxygen into the juice to give the tannins a smoother and velvety texture. The Rothschild family is behind the Flechas De Los Andes, and, as they also own some of the most prestigious chateaus in France, their quality of winemaking is readily apparent in this steal of a wine at $18.99. Expect slightly earthier notes out of this wine such as leather or sweet tobacco as the 2013 vintage continues to develop and soften with age.
We hope you all get a chance to try these excellent wines, learn more about how your taste buds interact with Malbec, and let us know what you think! Happy World Malbec Day everyone and cheers!
These Malbecs are great on their own, but they also pair excellently with these items found in right in our stores!
2016 Chateau Laur Cahors
2017 Gauchezco Reserve Malbec
- Carmona Olives
- Camille Bloch Mousse Chocolate Noir Bar
- Smokey Blue Cheese
- BBQ pork or pork chops
- Grilled marinated chicken cutlets
2013 Flechas De Los Andes Gran Malbec