Or really beginner’s drink? Malbec is definitely the most popular grape variety among millennials. It apparently is also the number one variety introducing non-wine drinkers. If I asked you to name five red varieties of the top of your head, a lot of you would probably mention Malbec. Yet ten years ago Malbec was virtually unknown outside of France and Argentina. So what happened?
Its roots lie in France where the grape is known as Côt. It was mainly used as a blending grape in the Bordeaux blend. Unsuitable to France’s climate, it suffered from rot and diseases. Many producers stopped growing the variety and today it’s only grown in the Cahors region. An unpopular grape to say the least.
French agronomist Michel Pouget nonetheless recommended it in the mid 19th century when a group of Argentine winemakers asked him which grapes they should plant at home to improve the quality of Argentine wine.
The grape proved highly successful in the hot high-altitude region of Mendoza and it has been grown there ever since. For the first 100 years, after first being planted, it was consumed solely inside Argentina. In the late 1990’s some of Argentina’s Malbecs started winning international attention and acclaim, yet it took till the mid 2000’s before the wine became a household name abroad.
That doesn’t answer the why however. It’s claimed that consumers and not sommeliers discovered the wine. This is supported by the fact that the variety was and is rarely found on restaurant’s wine lists. The reason people discovered it and liked it can partially be explained by Malbec’s good value. It offers bang for your buck at virtually any tier. It’s also a crowd-pleaser and goes well with or without food. Sometimes called the workingman’s Merlot, it has fruity profile and a luscious mouth feel, combined with medium levels of tannin and acidity.
And although plenty of Malbecs are catering to the lowest common denominator, there are many mid-level and excellent high-end Malbecs as well.
So if you don’t have time to think and need to play it safe. A Malbec is always a good choice.