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Grown primarily in the Mendoza region of Argentina, along with Cahors in France’s Southwest region, Malbecs are a big hit for most palates. They are often sipped alongside smoked or stewed red meats as the wine itself offers smoky accents, along with dark red fruit, notes of tobacco and raisins, and an inky appearance in the glass.

During the 1950s, frost killed most of the Malbec vines in Bordeaux, France, but the region quickly recovered by replanting Malbec. Before long, the grape rebounded, and since then has been blended with either Tannat or Merlot, or produced as a 100 percent varietal. It’s also Chile’s third-most planted wine grape.

One theory about Malbec’s origin is that it stems from Cahors when, around 150 A.D., the Romans brought over cuttings from Italy. Cahors was then responsible for having cultivated the grape into popularity. The viticulture of Malbec is such that while it’s a high-yielding grape and thrives in a variety of soil types, it’s also very susceptible to disease, including noble rot, frost, and coulure.

Quick Facts

  • Malbec is one of six grapes permitted in Bordeaux red-wine blends; the others are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carménère
  • A University of California-Davis/Catena Institute of Wine study published in 2014 unearthed a long-held belief, which is that Malbecs from California taste distinctly different than Argentine Malbecs
  • Malbec plantings in California are on the rise: there are around 7,000 acres in the state now, up from 1,000 acres in 1995

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