Malbec is from Bordeaux, France, where it is used as a blending grape in the Cabernet Sauvignon produced in the Medoc and the Merlot produced in St. Emilion and Pomerol. As an independent grape varietal, we look to warmer drier climates like Cahors in southern France, where the grape is called Auxerrois, Pressac, or Cot. Though the wines have plenty of fruit, this author prefers the rustic qualities of these wines from Cahors to their new world counterparts. Malbec has thick skin, deep tannic structure, and ripe plummy fruit flavor. In these warm dry regions the skin tannin becomes a pleasant integration in the wines character often imparting a rustic aromatic not unlike potpourri, and other spices.
In the new world Argentina has emerged as a market champion of solo varietal Malbec. The wines are big, bold, peppery, and inexpensive. Seems like a no brainer to try them. Malbec from Argentina has found it's way in the last 15 years on to wine lists in every style restaurant in the United States, we have one at the Irish Pub where I work, and why not? It pairs with all varieties of steak, burgers, sausage, and plays nicely with stewed or smoked meat, too.
Malbec is produced in the United States as a solo grape varietal with success in California, and Washington. it is also frequently used to blend into California Meritage and other Bordeaux style wines from California and Washington. Domestic Malbec has a higher alcohol content, fuller body, and the expression of fruit tends to dominate the wine in a way that still maintains balance.
The Aussies have Malbec planted to vine, and use it to blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, but also as a single varietal wine. These single varietal Malbec can be difficult to find in the United States, because they are largely consumed in their community of production, much like I discovered with the Pinot Noir produced in Mornington Peninsula.
In South Africa you can find Malbec generally from a producer who is creating a Cape Blend, and chooses to withhold some fruit and juice to create a solo varietal Malbec. Here the Malbec shows similar to that of Argentina with dark fruit, and peppery. Want to try a compare and contrast of various Malbec? Book a class here.