Malbec, The French Grape That Conquered Argentina (2023)

Not many wine countries are as closely associated with a particular grape variety as Argentina. The grape is, of course, malbec. Malbec came to Argentina’s largest wine region Mendoza in the mid-19th century. It came from France and had to adapt to the warmer and drier climate. It did so with gusto. Argentina is today by far the world’s largest malbec country.

Argentina adopted malbec and made it thrived. But the origin of the grape is in France. It is found throughout western France, in the Southwest, in Bordeaux, in the Loire Valley. Cahors in the Southwest made Malbec famous already in the 12th century. It is also one of the six permitted red grapes in Bordeaux. Malbec equally makes excellent wines, sometimes under the synonym côt, in the Loire Valley. However, all these regions have small quantities of malbec vineyards compared to Argentina, where it has grown at a record rate since 1990, when it covered 25,000 acres to today’s almost 100,000 acres.

The malbec wines are dark in colour. These are full-bodied wines, sometimes very intense and concentrated with good acidity and tannins. The aromas are of violets, blackberries, plums and various dark fruit. You can keep the bottles in the cellar for many years, but with their delicious, often refreshing fruit, you can enjoy them young as well. Malbec wines are marvellous with food whether they are young or old.


Cahors is one of the great red wines of the Southwest. The wines often have a dense structure and intense fruit. They can be really powerful, but Cahors wines today are often elegant with less marked tannins. It doesn’t mean, though, that they are lightly built. They have intense fruit aromas, often crushed ripe dark berries. A Cahors must be at least 70% malbec, and many are 100% malbec. A maximum of 30% of merlot and/or tannat is permitted.

Today, Cahors has around 7,500 acres of malbec.

(Video) France vs Argentina Malbec Wine

The English appreciated the Cahors wines already in the 12th and 13th centuries. Exporting their wines through the port of Bordeaux, though, were at times problematic. The wines from the inland, including Cahors, were subject to high tariffs. And the Cahors growers were not allowed to use the port of Bordeaux to ship their wines whenever they wanted. But the Bordeaux producers knew how to use the full-bodied wines from the inland. Until the 18th century, or even longer, they sometimes blended their Bordeaux wines with some Cahors to give them more colour and taste before being shipped.


Malbec is one of six permitted red grapes in Bordeaux (all six: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot, carmenère). But there is not much malbec left in Bordeaux, only 2,200 acres (out of 270,000). Before the extremely severe winter frost in 1956, there were 12,500 acres, but many producers replaced their malbec vineyards with merlot, which is easier to grow. Malbec needs to be fully mature at harvest time not to get too harsh or herbaceous. What is left today in Bordeaux is mainly on the right bank. In the Bourg and Blaye sub-regions, you can find wines with 10% malbec in the blend. The grape is always a bit more tannic here in Bordeaux than in Argentina.


Malbec thrives in the eastern part of the central Loire, in Touraine, close to all the magnificent royal castles for which the Loire has become world-famous. The grape is found in the following appellations: Rosé de Loire, Touraine, Touraine Amboise, Touraine Azay-le-Rideau, Touraine Chenonceaux and Touraine Mesland. The climate in the Loire Valley is sometimes a bit too chilly for malbec to ripen properly, but sometimes it does, especially if you keep the yields low. The result is often excellent.


Malbec is Argentina’s most famous grape variety. Since 1990, the plantations have grown at a record pace and now cover almost 100,000 acres. Argentine malbec has had great success in the United States. Many US consumers believe that the grape originates from Argentina, which is understandable.

The surface area has snowballed. And the Argentinean malbec wines have changed, from fruity unpretentious to something more complex. Today, ambitious producers realize that in certain places, you can obtain higher quality from the grape than in others. Location matters. Argentine malbec is no longer just decent volume wines.

The vineyards planted on higher altitudes, on the Andes’ mountain slopes, benefits from a cooler climate. Traditionally, vineyards have been planted on the plains. At higher altitudes, it is easier to retain the acidity in the wines. The sub-region or the vineyard’s name are emphasized by the growers and sometimes displayed on the label. Sometimes the producer even adds the altitude of the vineyard on the label.

(Video) Get To Know Argentina Wine | Wine Folly

An Argentinian Malbec in the low-price segment is still a smooth, easy-to-drink wine. For a few dollars more, there are many much more “serious”, ambitious and nuanced malbec wines. Spend a little more and you will get much more character.

If we generalize, a South American malbec has more fruit and ripeness, and a French one has more tannins and structure.

Other countries

Chile has around 5,000 acres of malbec, some of them over 100 years old. We find them, for instance, in Colchagua, where they are usually blended with cabernet sauvignon. The United States has 4,000 acres, a significant increase over the past 20 years, perhaps because Americans are fond of the Argentine version. New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Israel, Italy and several other countries make small quantities.

Malbec Facts

Acreage worldwide:

  • 129,000 acres

Main countries where malbec is grown:

  • Argentina
  • France
  • Chile
  • USA

Malbec’s character:

(Video) Argentina: Home of Malbec Wines

  • Dark in colour. Full-bodied, dense structure, sometimes really powerful, with good acidity and tannins. Sometimes fruity and easy-drinking. Aromas of violets, blackberries and plums.

—Britt Karlsson


Who brought Malbec to Argentina? ›

Malbec is the dominant red varietal in Cahors where the Appellation Controlée regulations for Cahors require a minimum content of 70%. Introduced to Argentina by French agricultural engineer Michel Pouget in 1868, Malbec is now widely planted in Argentina.

Why is Malbec important to Argentina? ›

Malbec came to Argentina's largest wine region Mendoza in the mid-19th century. It came from France and had to adapt to the warmer and drier climate. It did so with gusto. Argentina is today by far the world's largest malbec country.

What is the story of Malbec? ›

Malbec's origins are southwestern France, particularly the small Cahors region. The first records of this variety date to the 16th century when it was known as Auxerrois. The name Malbec was introduced at some point in the 1780s, most likely because Monsieur Malbeck planted it in Bordeaux.

What is the history of Argentinian Malbec? ›

Malbec was one of a number of vines introduced into Argentina in 1868 by Miguel Pouget, a French agronomist who had been hired to help improve the country's wines. It seems the particular clone he brought over has since disappeared in France.

What is special about Malbec? ›

Malbec wine is known for its deep purple color and full body. Malbec grapes are small and dark in color with very thick skins, producing a wine that has rich fruity flavors and medium tannin levels. Malbec wines are often higher in alcohol than Merlot or Pinot Noir.

What is the meaning of Malbec? ›

Definition of 'Malbec'

1. a black grape originally grown in the Bordeaux region of France and now in Argentina and Chile, used for making wine. 2. a rustic mid-bodied red wine made from this grape.

What is the difference between French and Argentinian Malbec? ›

A Malbec from Argentina tends to be plummy and fruit-forward, with a velvety soft texture. In France, Malbec tends to have more structure, firmer tannins, and an inky dark, brooding quality.

What does red wine symbolize in the Bible? ›

This is the cup of redemption, which is also the symbolic cup to which Jesus referred as representing his blood shed for us.

What is red wine in the Bible? ›

The Bible uses the word wine to refer to both an alcoholic fermented beverage as well as unfermented grape juice. According to Isaiah 65:8, the new wine is found in a cluster and there is blessing in it. This is obviously the unfermented, freshly squeezed juice of the grape.

Where did the name Malbec come from? ›

The word “malbec” originates from the French words “mal bouche,” meaning “bad mouth,” because of the poor opinion old French winemakers had about the grape.

Which country makes the best Malbec? ›

Argentina doesn't just produce the best quality malbec wines, but they also produce some of the most affordable quality malbec wines.

Which country is most famous for growing Malbec? ›

At its best, Malbec from Argentina is generous, delicious and the perfect match for just about anything grilled, especially beef. What Argentine Malbec is not, however, is a wine where one style fits all.

Is Malbec wine good for your heart? ›

Malbec, a smooth red wine with notes of blackberry and chocolate, has high levels of antioxidants and has been linked to both heart health and immune health.

What do French call Malbec? ›

Malbec is a French variety that was widely planted throughout the Middle Ages in different regions in France, where it was so common that it had over 1,000 synonyms. Local growers would give Malbec a local name – Auxerrois, Pressac, Doux Noir, Quercy and Plant du Lot were just a few.

What is Malbec called in Italy? ›

Think of Nero d'Avola as Sicily's Malbec. A once all but forgotten grape has resurged to popularity. Nero d'Avola translates to the “black grape of Avola'' and is gaining popularity in Italy and abroad with plantings in the United States and Australia.

Is Malbec sweet or sour? ›

Malbec is dry rather than sweet, but the plush intensity gives this wine a hint of sweetness, so it's not as dry as Cabernet Sauvignon, for example. Barefoot Malbec features hints of blackberry, blackcurrant, vanilla, caramel and a hint of toasted oak, so it's better known for rich complexity than sweetness.

Is Malbec the healthiest red wine? ›

As an especially thick-skinned variety, Malbec claims higher antioxidant levels than other red wines especially in terms of resveratrol. This variety has two to four times the amount of anti-inflammatory, health boosting antioxidants than other popular red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Is Malbec the same as Pinot Noir? ›

Malbec is meatier, grittier, has more structure, whereas pinot noir is light, aromatic, and low in alcohol content. Malbec has a moderate to high tannin content whereas pinot noir is light on tannins, leading some to consider it a more accessible easy-drinking red.

Is Malbec a French grape? ›

Malbec (sometimes called Côt and Auxxerois) is from France, where it grows in the Sud-Ouest. The thick-skinned grape is a natural cross of two esoteric varieties that are from Montpellier (in Languedoc-Roussilon) and Gaillac in the Sud-Ouest.

Was wine in the Bible alcoholic? ›

Passages such as Hosea 4:11 make clear that these wines were alcoholic and intoxicating; there is no basis for suggesting that either the Greek or the Hebrew terms for wine refer to unfermented grape juice."

Is it a sin to drink alcohol according to the Bible? ›

But the Bible goes further than admitting that drinking is simply allowed. Throughout Scripture, the production and consumption of beer and wine are often connected to the covenant promises of God. Under the old covenant, wine is a blessing (Deut 7:13; 11:14) and the absence of wine a curse (28:39, 51).

What is the wine of Jesus? ›

Red wine would probably be very dark in color, which is probably why in the Bible, Jesus uses it as a symbol for his blood.

Where in the Bible does it say not to drink wine? ›

Luke. 1. [15] For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

Why is wine considered Jesus blood? ›

The wine representing Jesus' blood is used as a way to remember the sacrifice that was made and to look forward to his prophesied return.

Is wine the blood of God? ›

Roman Catholic

The Catholic Church teaches that the bread and wine, through transubstantiation, become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ—in other words, the whole Christ—when consecrated.

Is Costco Malbec good? ›

This one is very similar to the prior vintage, and we're going to rate it the same at 88 points. It's right there among the best vintages of this Malbec that we've tasted. Hard to beat at this price.

Who has the best red wine in the world? ›

Below are the results and accompanying tasting notes from the top awarded red wines in the 2022 New York World Wine Competition. The Best in Show Red Wine was Zilzie Wines, Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition 2020, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale, 750 ml.

Why is Malbec wine so good? ›

Full-flavoured foods pair best because Malbec is a fuller-bodied wine. Malbec produces red wines with medium acidity and medium tannins. Through the full flavours, and medium acidity, Malbec is less overwhelming or niche on the palette, making this flavour more popular.

Where is the best red wine in the world made? ›

When it comes to the best red wine, you'll want to look at regions such as Tuscany, Puglia, Veneto, Piemonte, Lambrusco and Sicily, where you'll find a variety of red wines to enjoy in the Italian sun.

Where is the best wine in the world grown? ›

For many wine lovers, France is the world's greatest wine country. However, it's now in second place in two key categories. First, it has the world's second-largest total vineyard area, second to Spain. Second, it is also the second-largest wine producer: Italy takes the lead in the volume of wine produced.

Is Malbec native to Argentina? ›

France is the place of origin of Malbec, but Argentina is now home to nearly 70% of the Malbec vineyards of the world. Thus, your very first taste of Malbec could have been from Mendoza, Argentina.

Who brought wine to Argentina? ›

The Spanish brought wine to Argentina in 1556 throughout the Mendoza and San Juan regions. The first grape grown in Argentina, known as Pais in Chile, is the ancestor of the California Mission grape and has been used in most Argentinian wine for hundreds of years.

Where did Malbec originate? ›

If you're new to the world of Malbec, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Argentina is its true home. However, while 75% of the world's Malbec comes from Argentina, Malbec originated from France and is produced in a number of other countries across the world.

Who brought wine to South America? ›

Spanish missionaries and settlers established vineyards and made wine down the Pacific coast and across the Andes in Argentina from the mid-1500s–well before some well-known regions in Europe, such as Bordeaux's Médoc appellation–were planted.

What country makes the best Malbec? ›

Argentina doesn't just produce the best quality malbec wines, but they also produce some of the most affordable quality malbec wines.

Who invented wine first? ›

The oldest winemakers

Georgia is generally considered the 'cradle of wine', as archaeologists have traced the world's first known wine creation back to the people of the South Caucasus in 6,000BC. These early Georgians discovered grape juice could be turned into wine by burying it underground for the winter.

Why is Argentine wine so good? ›

Argentina's wine growing regions are unique for the high altitude that they are produced in. That factor, along with low humidity, means that Argentinian wines rarely face issues that affect vineyards in other countries.

Why is Argentina famous for wine? ›

Argentina is one of the most important wine-producing countries in the New World, and the largest producer of wine in South America. The high altitude deserts of the eastern Andes mountains have given rise to a high quality wine industry.

Did Slaves make wine? ›

During the 1850s gold rush, vineyard owners used an army of enslaved Native American workers.

Who settled South America first? ›

Among the earliest permanent settlements, dated to 4700 BC is the Huaca Prieta site on the coast of Peru, and at 3500 BC the Valdivia culture in Ecuador. Other groups also formed permanent settlements. Among those groups were the Muisca or "Muysca," and the Tairona, located in present-day Colombia.

Who were the first wine drinkers? ›

It is believed the Phoenician traders introduced the Greeks to the joys of wine. After the Phoenicians did the Greeks this favour, wine industries were established in most of Western Europe. Alexander the Great also introduced the drink to Asia.


1. Great Value Malbec: French and Argentinian Taste Special
(The Wine List)
2. Introduction to Malbec in Argentina
(The Wine Show)
3. JAMESSUCKLING.COM - Malbec: The Magic of Argentina
5. Argentina Malbec History and Producers Part 2
(Wine Folly)
6. Wolrd Malbec Day 2021 - Embassy of Argentina / WOFA - TOP 4 MALBEC WINEMAKER
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