Historically used as a blending grape in Bordeaux, France, Malbec has gained popularity in recent years as its own varietal. Since not much Malbec is grown in France or other Old World countries, it's relatively rare to find 100 percent Malbec, or even a primarily Malbec blend coming from this part of the world. New World wine growers, especially those in Argentina, have taken it upon themselves to make world class wines that allow the bold flavor of this grape to shine.
Malbec requires warm, dry conditions to thrive. It's susceptible to frost and mildew and tends to develop problems when grown in cool, moist climates. Because of this, production is limited to hot, sunny hillsides in some of the world's warmer appellations.
Though many winemakers in Northern California and Australia now produce Malbec, these wines are not the most popular and distribution is largely limited to local wine shops. Major wine distributors, including online stores and large retail chains, primarily carry Argentinian Malbec.
Best Malbec Overall:
There are quite a few remarkable Malbecs on the market. Though you can get a great Malbec from Lodi or Napa in California, or from warmer regions of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, it's Argentina that has paved the way to bring Malbec to the world, and the wines that come out of this country really are the best. Our list of the Best Malbec focuses on wines from Argentina that show off all the big, bold flavors this grape is known for, though we couldn't resist throwing in one great French Malbec that caught our eye. These wines are also top-rated by critics. Finally, they're relatively easy to come by since they're produced by some of Argentina's top distributors and taken from recent vintages.
A big jammy, spicy wine with layers upon layers of complexity, Catena Zapata Nicasia '08 is our top choice for Malbec. Grown in historic vineyards that have been producing Malbec for around 100 years, this wine is intensely flavorful and primed to age nicely over the next 15 years. Read Full Review
Unlike many wineries, Achaval Ferrer planted their Malbec on its own roots, without relying on grafting. This makes their Finca Mirador '09 a true Malbec from root to berry. The '09 is a big, complex wine, with lots of dark fruit flavors that are enhanced by notes of spice, stone, and violet. Though it's great right now, it'll be even better in a few years and it's worth it to hold onto this wine until 2016 or later. Read Full Review
A deep, dark wine with bold, complex flavors, Luca Malbec '11 is one of our Best Picks. This wine has flavors of strawberry, espresso, and a tannic, acidic finish that makes this a mouthwatering Malbec. Though it's a little on the fruity side compared to many Malbecs, there are plenty of spicy, earthy notes to make this a well-rounded wine that pairs well with just about any meat. Read Full Review
Tannic, fruity, and well-balanced, Tikal Amorio Malbec '11 is an excellent wine and one of our Best Picks for high end Malbec. The fruity cherry and dark berry notes are perfectly complemented by a touch of stone and plenty of big, powerful tannins that leave a dusty dryness on the tongue. Read Full Review
Landing spot number 40 on Wine Spectators list of the Best 100 Wines of 2013, Chateau Haute Serre '10 is an excellent Malbec. This wine is big and juicy, with bold tannins and a bouquet that includes notes of violet and licorice. As good as it is now, this wine will be even better once it reaches its peak in 2021. Read Full Review
Best Malbec under $20:
South American wines aren't known for their outrageous price tags, so it should come as no surprise that there are a wealth of excellent Malbecs for under $20. Though Malbec varietals and made all over the wine-making world, we have chosen only Argentinian wines for this list because winemakers in this country have been perfecting the art of the Malbec wine for around 100 years, while other regions are relatively new to the game, using the Malbec grape for blending rather than showcasing it in its own wine. In addition to choosing Argentinian wines, we also looked for wines that were highly rated by wine critics because they perfectly embody the in your face nature of the Malbec grape. Finally, we looked for wines that are ready to drink right away, no cellaring required.
A bold wine, Susana Blabo Signature Malbec '11 is our favorite Malbec for under $20. This wine is incredibly complex, with notes of dark berry, violet, and just a hint of mint. It's also a favorite with critics, frequently scoring in the 90s. Read Full Review
Norton Reserva '09 is a big fruity wine that's well balanced by earthy notes of mocha and mesquite. Though the tannins in this wine are big and bold, it's got an incredibly soft mouthfeel compared to most Malbecs. This is thanks to a malolactic fermentation that has left a silky smooth residue behind. Read Full Review
The bright fruit flavors of Kaiken Ultra Malbec '11 are perfectly complimented by subtle undertones of tobacco and plenty of soft, luxurious tannins. The finish is smooth, the mouthfeel robust, and the nose complex and fruity. Read Full Review
Catena Malbec is an excellent wine that won't burn a hole in your wallet. The flavor profile is richly complex, with notes of raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry that are supported by floral notes, and spicy leather and cinnamon. Ready to drink right away, this wine is great paired with any meat or pasta dish. Read Full Review
If you're looking for a structured, complex Malbec that doesn't overwhelm with spicy tannins, Manos Negras Malbec '11 is a great choice. This wine has lots of big fruit flavors, especially blackberry and black cherry, as well as violet, anise, and cocoa, giving it the complexity that Malbec drinkers expect. Read Full Review