In France, Malbec is one of the six grape varieties which are permitted in the blending of Bordeaux but it’s largely grown in the Cahors region in Southwest France where traditionally it makes blockbuster rustic wines. Also known as Côt and Auxxerois, it’s a little weak in the face of disease and needs warm and or drier environments to thrive. From its French origins the variety is now considered Argentina’s noble variety, with highly rated wines coming from the Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains.
Malbec is a rich and tannic wine and predominantly shows flavours of blackberry, plum and cherry. While Argentine Malbec is fruit forward, French Malbec from the Cahors region, generally is leathery and has much more acidity with flavours of pepper and spice. French Malbec wine tends to age longer due to its chunkier tannins and acidity.
Bodega Catena Zapata 2005
If you’re looking for a top range classic try 96 Bodega Catena Zapata 2005 Argentino ($150). A huge wine with flavours of raisin, mineral, liquorice, blackberry and a long smooth finish. It’ll age forever.
From Cahors, put down a few Château du Cèdre 2011 GC Malbec ($165) for long term drinking pleasure. A powerful wine with great balanced tannins to the immense juicy fruits and spicy dark wood flavours. This one will only get better.
In Australia Malbec was often used as blending material with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon until the 1980s. Later on producers switched to Merlot instead of Malbec, favouring the mid weight and easily tamed tannins. However we are seeing more use of Malbec, not just in red blends but also as single varietals. The best regions to grow the grape are warm climates with older vines such as Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek, Margaret River and Frankland River.
In Australia, young aspiring producers are just starting to experiment with the variety, check out Matchbox Wine Co. Malbec Joven, a juicy little number for everyday drinking, but there are also well-established Aussie Malbec’s out there.
The 2012 Ferngrove Orchid King Malbec ($32) is starting to make a name for itself with its fine plum and rich chocolate notes, good value too.
You can’t mention Malbec in Australia without talking about Wendouree from the Claire Valley. Only made in occasional vintages as a straight varietal, normally it’s seen either with Shiraz or Cabernet. If you can hunt down a bottle check out the 2010 Malbec, power, complexity and richness, yet never cloying. Check out The Oakbarrel for more info as they don’t have a website, so good they don’t need one!