Malbec is a wine we immediately jump to link with Argentina: dark purple bursting with succulent red-berry and black fruits, smooth, approachable tannins, balanced acidity and perfectly partnered with a steak.
The grape was first introduced to Argentina in the 1860s by a French agronomist, who realised the potential these vines would have in the Andes mountains and improve the overall quality of Argentinian wines.
Argentinian Malbec is all about altitude. The Andes, with its high diurnal range, gives hot days and cool nights where grapes can have a lengthy ripening Fruit ripened at lower altitudes generally give fuller-bodied wines while those from higher altitude vineyards have a better balance of acidity, with cleaner, fresh fruit and an overall elegance and richness.
Mendoza may hog the limelight for this big red but it’s birthplace is to be found in Cahors in south-west France, east of Bordeaux. Here, the grape goes by the name of Auxerrois or Côt (in the Loire) and the flavours are very different – more rustic with some farmyard savouriness, leather and spice; with age these wines soften to reveal cedar and earthiness.
Historically they were described as ‘black wines’, so charcoal in colour and high in tannin, your enamel would surely be eroded. Drunk as a varietal and also as a blend in Bordeaux wines, the grape was almost wiped out entirely due to the phylloxera plague in the 19th century but thankfully due to improvements in viticulture and processes in the winery, new horizons beckoned and a broader style was born.
The structure of Argentinian Malbec has a lot of ripe fruit but lower acidity overall; with Cahors the structure is built around the freshness of dark blackberry fruit, and higher acidity.
Malbec is a style of wine that is a perfect partner for a variety of meaty and textured dishes. The lighter-bodied, young and fruitier styles with charcuterie; the higher-alcohol wines (from 14% ABV) with steak, roast beef and venison, and more substantial vegetarian dishes such as burnt aubergine, roasted root vegetables – in fact anything thrown on the Josper grill – meat or veg – will taste great with a glass or two.
While the French Malbec is looking for foods like slow-cooked lamb, casseroles and creamy cheeses.