Malbec is a black-skinned grape variety native to southwestern France (specifically the area around Cahors), but now better known as the iconic wine grape of Argentina. Through its success in the vineyards of Mendoza, in a few short decades Malbec has shot from relative obscurity to international fame, simultaneously bringing newfound attention and respect to Argentina as a wine-producing nation.
Malbec typically ripens midway through the growing season and produces small, intensely colored grapes. As it is so sensitive to its growing environment, the level of ripeness has a considerable effect on the structure of the eventual wine. Broadly speaking, French Malbec tends to be more meaty, rustic and tannic, while examples from Argentina seem to be uniformly rich, ripe, jammy and juicy. On both sides of the Atlantic, Malbec wines are generally aged in oak to enhance the wine’s structure and aging potential. As a varietal, Malbec creates a rather inky red (or violet), intense wine, so it is also commonly used in blends, such as with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create the red French Bordeaux claret blend.