Is Malbec a Dry Wine?
Malbec sounds like a wine perfect for dessert with its royal purple color, jammy texture, and plum, blackberry, and chocolate flavors.
But there’s so much more to this wine, as some may view it as a paradox. With its robust fruit flavors and velvet textures, is this wine truly sweet, or is it dry?
If you’re entirely new to this varietal, you’re in for a treat, as this wine tastes just as complex as its backstory (in a good way).
Let’s jump into the origins of the complicated and decadent Malbec.
What is Malbec Wine?
Malbec is a full-bodied red wine that originated in Southern France. It thrives in the sunshine and breezy Mediterranean climates. But history shows us that Malbec is a tricky grape, as it was mostly wiped out in Bordeaux due to frost and the phylloxera epidemic of the 1860s.
This led to French agricultural engineer Michel Pouget introducing Malbec to Argentina. Ultimately, this saved the grape varietal, and Malbec eventually became a “national grape variety” in the country as France’s vineyards quickly diminished. But while Malbec is somewhat of a flavor chameleon, its viticulture hasn’t been simple for winemakers to master.
Argentinian Malbecs, in particular, are extremely sensitive to the terroir and climate they’re grown in. For instance, Malbec grapes grown in the sun will have thicker skin and a fruitier taste, while those grown in limestone will have deeper colors and more tannins. But too much sun exposure leads to Malbec tasting too thick and sugary.
Keep reading for the differences in taste between French and Argentinian Malbecs.
What Does Malbec Taste Like?
Before becoming the star of the show in Argentina, Malbec played more of a supporting role as a blending variety in Bordeaux. It is often combined with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to achieve the famous French Bordeaux blend.
Because of their different soils, Argentinian and French Malbecs taste vastly different. Malbec grown in France will take on a more savory, tart, meaty, and tannic taste, whereas Malbecs grown in Argentina taste like fruit jam.
This is where Malbec takes on a semi-sweet taste, as Argentinian Malbecs tend to carry more pronounced fruit flavors. However, this doesn’t make it one of the dessert wines like the fortified wine Port. No way, because Malbec residual sugars are much lower, with only 1.5 grams of sugar per glass. French Malbecs have even less sugar per glass on average.
Now let’s move on to the main question, “Is Malbec dry or sweet?”
Is Malbec Sweet or Dry?
Malbec is considered a dry red wine. However, a younger Malbec may taste sweeter than aged Malbec. The aged type will take on more robust tobacco, leather, and oak notes, while the younger varietal will still contain strong, velvety flavors of plum, black cherries, raspberries, and pomegranates. It is comparable to the wines mentioned above, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, though opposite to a lighter red wine like Pinot Noir due to its complexity.
With 13-14% alcohol per volume on average, Malbec also has a bit of a bite similar to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. This makes Malbec a higher alcohol content wine. So not only is it full-bodied with a complex flavor profile, this is definitely a wine you’ll want to eat with food.
While Malbec may boast those staple velvety red fruit flavors, it’s low residual sugar content makes it a dry red wine.
Now that we know what type of wine Malbec is, let’s find out the best way to serve it!
How to Serve Malbec
Like many other full-bodied red wines, Malbec is best served slightly below room temperature. This will bring out the wine’s more subtle fruit flavors and balance more pungent notes like coffee and tobacco. You can achieve this by placing your Malbec in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.
Malbec is also a wine that benefits from aeration, so for maximum serving potential, pour it into a decanter for about 30 minutes before serving. This will allow any sediment to fall to the bottom and balance the tannins, which is especially optimal for a more Tannic French Malbec.
If you’re unsure what the best temperature for serving your wine is, let our Wine Temperature Serving Guide enlighten you!
Now that you’re ready to sit back and enjoy this fruity, savory sipper, let’s see what foods are best for pairing.
Malbec Food Pairings
While Malbec is low in acidity, its high alcohol content, heavy body, and complex flavor profile make it an excellent pairing for rich and fatty dishes. Look to cheeses like blue cheese, gouda, or feta for a blend of smooth textures and tart flavors. A jammy Argentinian Malbec can make almost any cheese taste like a high-quality cheesecake! Conversely, Red meats and dark poultry will perfectly match savory French Malbec.
Mix It Up With Malbec
All things considered, we can confidently say that Malbec is a dry red wine. However, we can’t blame anyone for being confused due to its tendency to taste sweeter when grown in the sunny climates of Argentina.