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Wine Profile: Malbec

Meet Malbec!  Malbec grapes are a beautiful deep purple color, and they produce a rich, dark wine.  Malbec is commonly used in combination with other grapes to create Bordeaux-style blends, but can stand alone as an exceptional wine as well.

The Malbec grape is very thin-skinned, delicate, and easily ruined by frost.  It requires more sunlight than most grapes, and ripens mid-season.  Malbec is the principle grape of the French wine region of Cahors.  Malbecs grown here are often highly tannic.  In recent years, however, Malbec has earned a reputation as the grape of Argentina.  Argentina’s Mendoza region has both cool nights and lots of sunshine, producing Malbecs that are softer and more approachable than their French counterparts.

Many wine experts think that Malbec’s move to Argentina was of great benefit to the grape’s development.  Argentine producers have brought Malbec back to an old way of growing, by dramatically cutting yields and focusing instead on quality.  They have put much time and thought into selecting the best planting sites, and developing vineyards that benefit from their individual environments.  As a result, Malbecs, which were once high-priced and sold only domestically, are now available around the world, and many quality bottles can be had in the $15-$30 range.

Malbec is particularly deep in color and intense in flavor.  It can be very plummy or very peppery, and can also have notes of dark berry and leather.  Because of its tannic nature, Malbec is a great candidate for aging.  The tannins will mellow out as the years pass, and the more subtle, richer flavors hidden in the bottle will become apparent.  Many Malbecs have the structure necessary to allow them to age well for a decade or even more.

Argentina, the current most popular producer of Malbec, is also known for its excellent grass-fed steaks.  Grass-fed beef is leaner than its American corn-fed counterpart, and so can be a bit tougher, but it more than compensates with its rich, intense flavor.  It’s no mere accident of geography that great Malbecs and great steaks both come from Argentina–the two complement each other perfectly.  Try Malbec with your next steak.  Its intense, spicy characteristics mean that it can handle the most flavorful steak you want to try.  So this time, skip the filet mignon and go for a flavorful ribeye or t-bone: it and a glass (or three) of Malbec is truly a mouthwatering combination.

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