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by Staff Writer - R. Meoki | December 09, 2010

Malbec is typically a medium to full-bodied red wine, with strong tannins and an earthy, wood-like appeal. Ripe fruit flavors of plums and blackberry are part of its characteristics. With the Malbec wine, you can expect deep red colors and intense flavors, with notes of blackberry, plum, leather, and pepper. Many of the wines have the necessary construction to age for a decade or more. One of the traditional "Bordeaux varietals", Malbec has characteristics that fall somewhere between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Malbec is a midseason ripener which can bring it a very deep color, ample tannin, and a particular plum-like flavor component to add complexity to claret blends.

The Malbec grape originated from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape is still grown under the name Cot. In France, Malbec was generally a grape used for blending, with very little time being devoted to its improvement or success. Even though the Malbec grape did not do well in France, it flourished in Argentina. Malbec has found great success in the sun-drenched climate of Argentina. Referred to in Argentina as "Fer", the best examples of these wines are produced in the Mendoza Valley region. Malbec is also widely grown in Chile, where it is frequently mixed with Merlot, and in smaller amounts in the United States and New Zealand. Malbec is Argentina's signature grape and it is quickly making a new name for itself with red wine lovers.

Malbec came to Argentina in the late nineteenth century, before the Phylloxera epidemic (Phylloxera attacks the roots of grape vines and eventually kills the plant) punished European vineyards. This epidemic required grafting of fruiting wood onto rootstocks that were not native to Europe. Argentina was not subject to the epidemic and most of the vines are not grafted. Instead, vines grow on their own roots. The Phylloxera epidemic may have given Argentina their Malbec start, but the key reasons for the recent emergence of the Malbec grape are improvements both to viticulture (cultivation of grapes) and vinification (process of making wine from grapes). Argentina producers have dramatically cut yields and replaced large old wood casks with oak barrels. Aging in oak barrels can also bring out aromas of vanilla and leather. They have taken more care in selecting appropriate planting sites, and developing cooler, higher altitude vineyards that benefit from warm days and cool nights. Sales of Malbec have radically increased in the last five years. Exported primarily from Argentina, consumers have taken to the wine because of its reasonable price, fruity flavor, and its food pairing capabilities. Because of the success of Malbec, Argentina is now the fifth largest producer of wine in the world.

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Malbec goes well with roasted meats such as chicken, turkey or steak. Malbec is also definitely a red meat wine that is flexible enough to stand up to spicy Mexican, Cajun, Indian or Italian fare; those dishes especially with tomato-based sauces. Malbec should also be considered to go with barbecue, chili and sausage. Malbec should be served at around 58F and can be aged for up to 5 years.

Malbec and some blends may present some health benefits, as Malbec is noted to contain high levels of Resveratrol. Malbec is often blended with other varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet, Merlot, and Petit Verdot to make Bordeaux style wines.

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