There is a grape that has gained a lot of favor with red wine drinkers in recent years. In our industry we’ve seen it go from a hand sell and well-kept secret to one of the most requested wines around. I’m talking about Malbec. South America’s flagship grape has been making appearances on more by-the-glass lists lately and it’s no surprise to us. I’ve got a tip for all you Malbec fans and would-be Malbec drinkers out there: April 17 is World Malbec Day. Since we all like to drink and celebrate stuff, let’s take the opportunity to drink some delicious red wine. Don’t know much about it? Let’s chat.
With my best Jerry Seinfeld impression, “So what’s the deal with Malbec?” For starters, it’s the most exported varietal of wine from South America. I guess that makes it kind of like a national treasure. Some of the greatest producers of Malbec in the world call Argentina home: Achaval-Ferrer, Mendel, Cheval des Andes, Dona Paula, and O.Fournier (just to name a few). Malbec from Argentina is big and fruit forward. Here you’ll get to taste plums and blackberries with an almost smoky finish. This is largely due to the warm temperature in South America. Pro tip: Warm temps produce more fruit forward wines. Knowing that, these wines are comparable to some nicer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. We even see some Napa producers like Paul Hobbs and Dave Phinney (The Prisoner Wine Co. & Orin Swift) heading down south to make Malbec wines.
There’s another place you can find Malbec if you’re not into the heavier wines. Not everyone knows this little fun fact: Malbec is actually from France, not South America. To this day it is still one of the noble varietals of Bordeaux. You can find it there and a few other places (just north in Loire Valley next to Bordeaux in Cahors). When Malbec is French, it is almost a completely different wine. They pair wonderfully with food, being that they are rich in acidity and slightly earthy. Those dark fruits are still around but not as prominent. This is due to France’s climate being cooler than Argentina’s. Yet another tip: We refer to this style as “Old World” wines. They are usually from an Old World wine making country (France, Italy, etc.) and have some distinct characteristics like less alcohol content, more acid, and are food driven.
Now it’s time to give credit where credit is due. Argentina and South America are responsible for the rise of Malbec. They have put out some stellar Malbecs that aren’t going to hurt your bank account. You can usually find a pretty good one from $14-$18. Now, there are some out-of-sight Malbecs that get into the $100s (I’m looking at you Achaval-Ferrer and Mendel) that will absolutely blow your mind. It should be noted that a decent amount of Napa Valley collectors and Cab drinkers have started to buy more Malbec because of its varietal similarities as well as it’s price point. Something to ponder on April 17, I suppose.
I hope this has inspired you to try a glass of Malbec during Happy Hour or let your favorite wine guy show you the one they are really digging at the moment. Either way, April 17 is a great time to drink Malbec with the rest of the world.