If there was a popularity contest for grapes, Malbec would definitely be top of its class. It’s a grape that has an old soul with a young and exciting energy. This beloved grape even has its very own day to celebrate: April 17th. On this Spring day every year, Malbec lovers across the world pop bottles to salute this super-cool grape and revel in its joy and taste.
But what exactly is Malbec? Many assume that Malbec is a grape that comes from Argentina in South America, which much of it does. But, where did the Malbec grape actually originate from? Well, Malbec is actually one of the original grapes used in Bordeaux’s original red wine blend. Winemakers have been blending wine for a very long time, and this is where Malbec gains its historic roots. The grape is also called Auxerrois or Côt Noir in Cahors, France and can also be called Pressac in other regions around the world. Boasting lots of red and dark fruit on both the nose and palate with smooth and soft tannins, Malbec is very approachable and loved by many. There are good reasons why this grape is so well-loved – there’s plenty of affordable bottles to try, the name is easy to remember and they can range from fresh and fun to dark and delicious too!
Unfortunately, after 1956 frost killed off 75% of the Malbec crop in France. While overall planting of Malbec is slowing in France, the grape is surging in Argentina and has become a national or signature variety. First introduced to Argentina in the mid-19th century, Malbec rose to greater prominence and is the most widely planted red grape variety in the country today. If you’re interested in the differences between French Malbec and Argentinian Malbec, the French style is more rustic with darker fruits, and Malbec from Argentina tends to be more red fruit-forward and approachable for the new world wine drinkers. Keep in mind, like most wine information, this is generalized and there are exceptions to every rule.
The Malbec grape is thin-skinned and needs more sun and heat than its brother grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Some of Argentina’s most highly rated and complex Malbec wines are grown in Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions of Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. Located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, the elevation can be between 800 metres and 1,500 metres (2,800 to 5,000 feet). Grapes that grow at high altitudes tend to thrive in cooler climates, which means a longer growing season and the vines must struggle for water thereby making the grapes more complex in flavour. These wines are typically aged in oak barrels longer than other Malbecs, making them fuller-bodied and even having the ability to age. If you don’t know the Queen of Malbec, her name is Dr. Laura Catena.
But what about food pairings? A couple great food partners for the wine itself are grilled meats and cheeses, but let’s dive a little deeper and understand the why and the how.
The tannins in Malbec are the perfect fit for the protein in meat and in cheese. The Argentines also like to cook over an open fire and have very long and relaxing meals enjoying company and gorgeous sunsets. Meals are rustic and delicious complimenting the uniqueness of Malbec’s fruit and floral characteristics.
Begin dinner off with a beautiful cheese and charcuterie board. Star with a large wooden board as your canvas and add in a selection of premium cheese that is soft, semi-soft and hard. Choose a curated selection of meats and add in fruit, nuts and condiments like honey, mustard, or tasty fruit james. Lastly fill in the empty space on the board with fresh herbs, crackers and fresh bread – now just add Malbec and you’re good to go!
For your main course the open fire grilled meat can be your choice of lamb, beef or even sausages. Add in laughter, grilled vegetables and great company and you’re set for a truly enjoyable and delicious evening. When it comes to Malbec try decanting your wine and serving in large bowled glasses is a fabulous way to level up the dining experience. Maybe even ask everyone to bring a bottle of Malbec themselves and open it up for a true tasting experience. No 2 bottles are the same, so this makes for a really great wine adventure!
What are you doing on April 17th? Why not join us in celebrating Malbec by picking up a bottle for an Argentinan-inspired dinner!
Ingredients for the dough:
- 7 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tbsp lard
- 2 cups water
- 1 tbsp coarse salt
Ingredients for the filling:
- 500g sirloin tip, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp lard or butter
- 4 onions, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp cumin
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp chili flakes
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
- 3 spring onions, chopped
- To make the pastry, heat a pan, pour the water and salt together with the lard. Once it has melted, turn off the heat and cool it for a couple of minutes.
- Combine the water with the flour and knead until the dough just comes together. It should end up dry and a little bit hard. Roll it and cut it in circles.
- Wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, add the chopped onions and take them to a frying pan with lard. Sauté until they have softened. Season with salt, paprika, chilli flakes and cumin. Once soft, set the mixture aside.
- Add some more lard to the pan and sear the meat until browned and set aside. Check the seasoning. Add the chopped spring onions and the hard-boiled eggs and mix them with the meat and onions. Cool the mix in the fridge until the fat has solidified.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
- Spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling onto the middle of each pastry round, brush the edges with some water, then fold them over the filling to make a semi-circle. Press the edges together with a fork to seal or make the famous Repulgue, then place onto a large, lightly greased baking tray and cook for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Lastly, enjoy the empanadas with Argentina Malbec or dive into pairings like grilled eggplant, fire-roasted squash, lamb burgers, pasta with meat and tomato sauces, and even grilled seafood.
Argentina Dinner Wine List
- Alamos Malbec 2019
- Graffigna Malbec 2018
- Luigi Bosca Malbec 2018
- Trapiche Reserve Malbec 2018
- Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
- La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
- Graffigna Pinot Grigio