Twenty years ago, you rarely saw Malbec on a restaurant wine list, let alone on a supermarket wine shelf. Your best bet for encountering it would have been to visit a wine shop, but even then, it likely would have been a minor part of a red blend from Bordeaux or Cahors, not labeled as a varietal wine.
Even today in France, you’re much more likely to hear it referred to by another name: Cot. It’s also interesting to note that the first historic reference to the variety dates back to the 1500s, but even then the Malbec name was not used. At that time, it was called Auxerrois.
Talk about an identity crisis.
Things changed when Malbec was widely planted in the Mendoza region of Argentina. It was a perfect variety-to-terroir match, and because the land was cheap and the yields were high, lots of value-priced Malbec found its way to America. At many bars and restaurants, it became the “house red,” typically replacing the more expensive Merlot.
In the past 10 years, Malbec from Mendoza and other neighboring regions in Argentina has really come into its own. Quality-focused vineyard practices, such as limiting the yields, have transformed Malbec from second-tier status (in the eyes of some) to a true star variety.
Because of its softer tannins (compared to other reds), Malbec pairs just as well with chicken, lamb and pork as it does with beef. That makes it among the most versatile reds you can select as the summer grilling season draws near.
No wonder Malbec now qualifies for its own special day among wine drinkers. You may have thought this was just the 17th day of April, but it’s also a significant occasion on the annual wine calendar.
Happy International Malbec Day!