MALBEC – Varietal Overview

Malbec is the flagship grape of Argentina. The country leads global production of the grape with over 75% of all the Malbec plantings in the world.

This variety originally comes from Southwest France, where it is called Cot and features a hard, tannic style. It is one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine. The French plantations of Malbec are now found primarily in Cahors in South West France. Other Malbec plantings are found in France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand and the USA.

In 1852, Malbec was brought to Argentina by Michel A. Pouget, a French agronomist. When phylloxera destroyed French viticulture towards the end of the 19th century, the “Cot” fell into oblivion. However, Malbec was already thriving in Argentina.

Malbec is typically a deep purple-red color, almost opaque, and often has a bright magenta rim. Argentine Malbec wine is characterized by its deep color and intense fruit flavors with a velvety texture.

Malbec is characterized by its dark fruit aromas, which can include berry, plum, and black cherry. Its nuanced flavors can offer chocolate, violet flowers, leather, and depending on the amount of oak aging, smokiness. Because of the diversity of this varietal, Malbec can also display aromas as varied as mineral and green herbs.

The Malbec grape is a thick-skinned grape and needs more sun and heat than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to mature. This variety shows unique characteristics based on differences of climate and soil, genetic characteristics of the plants, vineyard management and production methods.

The key to Malbec’s success in Argentina is the relatively high elevation at which it grows. In lower elevations, Malbec grapes struggle to produce the acidity they need to create great tasting and long lasting wine. High elevation areas with a wide diurnal temperature shift (i.e., hot days, cold nights) allow the grapes to produce more acidity.


Present in almost all of the wine growing regions of Argentina, there is approximately 102,000 acres of Malbec. This represents almost 20% of all the total vine plantings in the country.

Because Malbec typically has softer tannins and a more elegant finish than other popular reds, it pairs great with leaner cuts of red meats like flank, sirloin, and skirt steak. It also does extremely well with funky flavors like blue cheese and rustic flavors like mushrooms. The versatility of this varietal also makes it pair perfectly with chicken and other meats like lamb and pork.

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Art by Bridget Gleeson for Vida Wines
Photo by INV