Grape varieties

Malbec: The ultimate grape guide

What does it taste like?

  • Blackberry
  • Leather
  • Mulberry
  • Red berries
  • Smoke
  • Bramble

Where is it grown?

The rugged, almost inhospitable vineyards of Cahors in southwest France are where malbec excels, often under its local names of cot or auxerrois. The grape must make up 70% of any wine labelled as Cahors.

Cahors.Winemaking techniques vary considerably and some wines see the grape blended with merlot or tannat. Though there are many different styles of wine made, the key characteristics remain the same: a distinctively dark, dense wine with earthy, gamey aromas and firm structure. Blackberry and blackcurrant fruits dominate, backed by spicy, leathery notes. The wines are much more tannic than those found in Argentina – literally a world away in terms of style, but their ability to age and their reasonable price make them excellent value.

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Malbec is Argentina's most popular variety, and it thrives in Mendoza.

Located in the far west of Argentina, Mendoza is the largest wine producing region in the country. Its high altitude and continental climate provide malbec with the challenging growing conditions in which the grape thrives.

Malbec Grapes in Mendoza, Argentina.Deeply-coloured, rich and robust wines are the order of the day here, with sufficient alcohol, tannin and acidity to support oak ageing. The main stylistic difference between Argentine malbec and Cahors is the former's velvety texture, overt dark fruit flavour and the spicy, vanilla notes conferred by oak.

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What style of red wine does Malbec make?

Rustic, spicy and deeply-coloured, malbec is the wine equivalent of reading an old leather-bound book by an open fire. From the bold vanilla-flecked Argentine style of malbec to the brooding black wines of Cahors, malbec is renowned for its ability to deliver full-flavoured, fruity reds with nuances of leather, game and smoke, making it as perfect a choice for a summer barbecue as for sipping in the depths of winter.

Which should I try?

Old world: The Loire Valley (where malbec is known as cot) the Bordeaux 'côtes', Bergerac and along the route of the Pilgrim's way throughout South-West France are where you'll find the French incarnations of malbec. Cahors, on the lot river, is a region famous for its tannic, rustic-tasting black wines which are made from malbec.

New world: Malbec is Argentina's most popular variety, and it thrives in Mendoza.

Located in the far west of Argentina, Mendoza is the largest wine producing region in the country. Its high altitude and continental climate provide malbec with the challenging growing conditions in which the grape thrives.

Deeply-coloured, rich and robust wines are the order of the day here, with sufficient alcohol, tannin and acidity to support oak ageing. The main stylistic difference between Argentine malbec and Cahors is the former's velvety texture, overt dark-fruit flavour and the spicy, vanilla notes conferred by oak. Take a look at either kind here.

Malbec or cot is found all along the Pilgrim's Way from the vineyards of the Loire to those of the southwest and though once important in Bordeaux, is now a marginal variety except in Cahors where it thrives. In its second home of Argentina it has single-handedly put the country on the map.
Marcel Orford-Williams



Rosie Allen

The Society's Brand Marketing Manager

Rosie Allen

Rosie joined the team in 2016 and oversees all our content including 1874 magazine and Discovery pages.

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