In Argentina, Malbec is king. That is why I write this blog! Malbec is originally from the Bordeaux region in France, and there can sometimes be referred to as Cot (not to be confused with cot-du-rhone). It is thought that the name Malbec comes from the fact that Malbec in France was so undrinkable. The French called it Malbec because “mal” means bad in French (and Spanish as well) and “bec” is a derivative of the word bouche in French meaning mouth. It is therefore the bad mouth wine… at least when it was in France.
Transport Malbec all the way to Argentina, and specifically to the region of Mendoza where the best Malbecs come from, and you get a totally different wine. Why? Well the terroir in Argentina is totally different than the terroir of France.
Characterized by dryness (over 300 days of sun per year), high altitude (Mendoza is 800 meters to 1200 meters in altitude which is about 2500 to 4000 feet), and fresh water irrigation, and you have a region that is totally distinct from the low altitude, much wetter and much more humid regions of France.
So what is the effect of all these characteristics on the Malbec varietal? Argentine Malbec and specifically Malbec from Mendoza has several typical characteristics, which are totally distinct from French Malbec. Argentine Malbec has soft, friendly tannins which makes the wine feel gentle and supple on your palate. There are tannic Malbecs as well from different regions of Argentina but this is not the norm. Malbec has a deep violet color and fruit aromas of plum, plum jam and spice aromas like clove. Depending on oak treatment Malbec can also take on cocoa, coffee and vanilla aromas and flavors.
With older vine Malbec (Malbec vines older than about 70 years) the wine gets more concentrated and also takes on spicier characteristics.
The absolute top regions for Malbec, like Perdriel in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza can also make fantastically dense Malbecs with caramel, licorice, and bursting fruit flavors.