05 Apr, 2022

Malbec is a dry red wine that’s full bodied and really packs a punch. If you’ve been spotting it on wine lists more often recently and have ever wondered “why is Malbec so popular?”, we’ve got you covered. Malbec has a unique, rich flavour profile yet maintains seriously impressive credentials – all thanks to its velvety smooth finish, so it rates highly with wine lovers all around the world.

When it comes to picking the Malbec for you, look no further than our California-grown Dark Horse Malbec. Crafted by experienced Californian winemaker Beth Liston, this wine exceeds what you’d expect from the average Malbec. The grapes are harvested before many other red California wine grapes reach their ripeness, which allows our wine makers to fine tune the ageing process and add elegant density to every drop. We also have first pick from over 400 of California’s premium grape growers and our wines are tasted 100 times from vine to glass to ensure a consistent high standard.  So, what is our Malbec like? Expect smooth notes of plum and blackberry, a hint of spice, and a plush velvety finish.  


Where is Malbec from?

When you think of Malbec, your mind probably turns instinctively to South America. And you could be forgiven for thinking that Malbec is only from Argentina – the country makes an impressive 75% of the world’s Malbec – but there are other key players in the Malbec market. 

The small, dark Malbec grapes grow particularly well in the high-altitude Argentinian vineyards, which offer a dry, cool climate, and plenty of sunshine. However, Malbec actually originates from France, with roots dating to the Cahors region over 2000 years ago. If you’d like to learn a little more about the history of Malbec wine, this video from The Grape Explorer on YouTube does a great job going into a bit more detail. Nowadays, the grapes are also widely grown in the United States, Chile, and Australia. 

How is Malbec wine made?

Malbec wine is made using small but mighty grapes dressed in a deep, dark and brooding purple hue. Despite their bold appearance, they’re pretty sensitive to the weather. Malbec grapes don’t like high temperatures, but they’re not fans of frost either, and can be particularly prone to rot and damage from pest activity. However, grown in the right conditions, these inky grapes make a rich, smooth wine.

The grapes ripen in the middle of the season and develop a thick skin. Once harvested, they’re fermented – usually the grape skins and the juice mingle in the same vessel. During the fermentation process, yeast is added to form alcohol and carbon dioxide. A second fermentation known as malolactic fermentation also takes place with most red wines. This transforms the sharp malic acid into creamier-tasting lactic acid.

The wine is then aged in vessels made of materials like oak, clay, glass, or stainless steel, and the material of choice can really enhance the flavour. When ageing is complete, the winemaker might blend the wine with different barrels of the same grape – or a different grape entirely – to create the final product and get the texture just right. It’s then clarified and bottled before making its way to your wine rack!


What does Malbec wine taste like?

The taste of Malbec wine very much depends on where the grapes are grown, but it’s widely known for its unique tasting notes that manage to simultaneously tick the boxes for both dark and fruity, and bold and savoury.

Varieties that start life in Argentina and California tend to produce a more fruit-forward, smooth wine – think plum-like and soft in texture. Malbec grapes grown in the harsher conditions of the French vineyards, meanwhile, end up with firmer tannins and turn into a darker, more astringent wine that tastes a little tart. If you’d like to get into more details on Malbec tasting notes, The Wine Folly has a great post on that. 

To get the best out of your bottle of Malbec, try cooling it for half an hour, or until it’s just below room temperature. Cooling the wine means you’ll experience the full depth of flavour. For an even better drinking experience, aerate the wine in a decanter 30 minutes before drinking to really make the aromas mature. 

If you’re sharing a bottle with friends but not quite got to the bottom, you might be wondering – how long does Malbec last after opening? As a general rule of thumb, red wines with higher tannin and acidity like Malbec stay fresh for up to a week. Just be sure to replace the cap and keep the bottle in a cool, dark place… but we’ll be impressed if you manage to resist finishing the bottle for that long!


Is Malbec sweet or dry?

The short answer is that Malbec is a dry wine. But what makes a wine “dry”, exactly? A dry wine is one that has less residual sugar. The grapes used to create Malbec are fermented for longer, so the natural sugars in the grapes are eaten by the yeast. This is the process that creates alcohol. 

A dry wine will usually have a higher alcohol content and, generally, a sweeter wine will have a lower alcohol content. This is because the grapes used to create sweeter wines are not fermented as long and less of the sugars have been eaten. For more information about this, check out this article here.

If you want to know more about the differences between dry and sweet wines (and have 4 minutes to spare), you might want to have a look at this video

What does Malbec pair with?

So you’ve got the bottle of wine, you want to serve it at your next dinner party, but you’re not sure what to eat with Malbec. We’re here to help, and you’ll be pleased to know that the answer to what goes with Malbec wine is a pretty simple one. 

Similar to the rest of the red wine family, Malbec pairs particularly well with red meat. But does Malbec go with duck? It can, but to make sure the soft-yet-beautiful notes of the Malbec cut through, don’t choose a fattier meat. Malbec is best served with lean meats like turkey and ostrich, or even leaner cuts of beef and buffalo. Why not try our recipe for braised beef short ribs with ancho chillies, or crack open a bottle of Malbec with your next roast lamb dinner?

Malbec also pairs brilliantly with dishes like this decadent mushroom and sausage pizza - the creamy cheese and earthy notes of mushrooms and sausage makes it an ideal accompaniment. It’s perfect with mushrooms, peppers, and earthy or smoky flavours like paprika, cumin, garlic, and black pepper, too. Try it for yourself when you whip up a Moroccan recipe, like a tagine. 


Ready to quench your thirst for Malbec? Our 2017 vintage Dark Horse Malbec won the Concours Mondial Silver Award in 2019 and will surely hit the spot. Or, explore our full range of wines and get ready to stock up. 

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