Malbec is a purple grape that is popular in Argentina and Chile. The grapes tend to have an inky dark color and robust tannins. Malbec was widely planted in Bordeaux until the 1956 frost killed of 75% of the crop. Many growers replaced these Malbec vines with the more reliable Merlot variety. It is rarely used there as a varietal in modern times, mainly being used for blending with other wines. Still, it is legally one of only six grapes that are allowed to be used in a red Bordeaux blend.
In modern times, the major plantings of Malbec in France can be found in Cahors, in the South West. The Appellation Controlee regulations for Cahors require a minimum content of 70% Malbec in wines produced from the region. The grape has also become hugely popular in Argentina, where it is gaining worldwide recognition for it's production of Melbac Varietal wines. As of 2003 there were over 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares of Malbec planted in the country.
The Malbec grape is a thin skinned grape that needs more sun and heat to mature than Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. It ripens mid season. As a varietal, this grape produces an intense, inky red wine with ample tannins.
Malbec was widely grown in Bordeaux, where it was one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of Bordeaux wine. The grape fell out of favor after the frost of 1956 killed of the majority of Malbec vines. Most growers, other than those in the Cahors region, replaced these vines with more fashionable and robust grape varieties such as Merlot.
Malbec was first introduced to Argentina by Professor Michel Pouet in 1868. The warm and dry South American climate provided perfect conditions for the vines to grow. The grape soon flourished and spread across the country and into Chile.
In the 1980's Argentina introduced a “vine pull” program and the amount of Malbec planted plummeted from 150,000 acres to around 10,000 acres. Since then the plantings of the grape in Argentina have steadily increased and in 2003 there was 50,000 acres planted in the country.
France: Malbec was once grown in 30 different departments of France. Nowadays there is only some 15,000 acres planted, with most of that consigned to the Southwestern part of the country. Cahors remains the stronghold for this variety with smaller amounts being grown in Cotes du Marmandais, Bergerac, Buzet, Fronton, Cotes de Duras and Languedoc. Small amounts are also grown in the Loire Valley.
Argentina: After first being introduced to the country in the mid 19th century Malbec has flourished in Argentina. As of 2003 there were over 50,000 acres planted. Malbec varietal wines produced here have gained worldwide recognition, particularly those grown in the high altitude wine regions of Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. Located between 2800 to 5000 feet these districts are located in the foothills of the Andes mountains. Several Malbecs produced in these high altitude vineyards have scored over 95 points in the Wine Spectator. Malbec grows best in warm dry climates, with well irrigated and well drained soils. This grape needs lots of sunlight and heat to reach full maturity.
Malbec can also be found growing in Chile, Brazil, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Australia and the United States.
Malbec varietal wines are characteriszed by their deeply hued purple color, often described as inky red. They tend to have lush, ripe berry and fruit flavors, with ripe plum, and blueberry flavors often present. They often have licorice or purple floral notes of violet. Malbecs tend to be bold and earthy with medium to strong tannins and a full bodied mouth feel. These wines pair well meats such as steak, pork, chicken and sausages.