Malbec is gaining in global popularity as a lower-priced varietal that is a great match for a wide range of cuisine on its own or in blends with other Bordeaux varietals, or even racier grapes, such as Zinfandel, Syrah, and Tempranillo. Fans of the grape will be pleased to find a new array of values based on the results from the recent Global Masters 2023 blind tasting in the UK.

Jonathan Pedley, MW, chair of the judges, said the competition featured an impressive quantity of top-scoring wines. He noted that Malbec, particularly from Mendoza, can produce good-value wines with immediate and broad appeal. Judges recorded major improvements in overall styles, quality, and values versus the days when the reds were over-extracted, over-oaked, over-tannic, and over-alcoholic.

“The fruit character became more succulent and appealing (since previous Masters), with oak adding a bit of richness and complexity; there was more length on the finish as well,” reported Pedley. “…the tasting demonstrated what super wines Malbec and Argentina are capable of creating across the price spectrum.”

Judges found the most significant number of winners in the £20-£30 category. They said many of the Malbecs show the variety’s hallmark combination of fleshy dark berry fruit, black peppery spice, and complementary notes of toast and vanilla from maturation in barrels. The expert panelists are based in Britain, hence the prices in British Pounds. The current exchange rate is about $1.22 U.S. dollars for one Pound Sterling.

Mendoza Alps Sunset Valle de Uco

Fast Facts about Malbec

  • Malbec is believed to have first been planted in the French region of Cahors in southwest France in the 1780s. Cahors became known for its dark, tannic wines made predominantly from Malbec.
  • By the mid-1800s, Malbec was being planted in the Bordeaux region, where it was often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Malbec added dark color, plum flavors, and soft tannins as a blending grape
  • The first Malbec vines were planted in 1868 in the Mendoza region of western Argentina, in the sub-region of Luján de Cuyo
  • Mendoza offered an arid climate with sunny days, low humidity, and cold nights, tempered by cool winds from the Andes mountains – ideal conditions for quality Malbec production. 
  • Argentina is the world’s 5th largest wine producing country and the largest wine-exporting country in South America
  • Argentina continues to dominate global Malbec production, accounting for over 75% of the world’s Malbec. Mendoza is the key region
  • The overall consistent climate leads many producers to describe Mendoza as more subject to “viticultural vintages” rather than “weather vintages.” Good practices in the vineyard and in every step of the winemaking process have a bigger impact.

The rich, bold flavor of Malbec can stand up to seasoned meats, roasted vegetables, tomato sauces, and spicy foods. Its oak and fruit notes complement beef and game meats very well. Malbec is also a nice pairing for empanadas, stews, and charcuterie boards as appetizers. Malbec is very versatile with a wide range of cuisine. The Masters Winners:

Oaked Malbec Blend

£15-£20 Gold – El Enemigo Wines, Mendoza, Argentina, 2020.

£20-£30 Gold – Domaine Bousquet Gran Organic Malbec, Gualtallary, Argentina, 2021; Fecovita, Los Helechos Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, 2020; Bodegas Doña Paula Estate Malbec, Uco Valley, Argentina, 2022; Trapiche, Tesoro, Mendoza, 2021.

Oaked 100% Malbec

£10-£15 Gold – Fecovita, Los Helechos Reserva, Mendoza, 2020; Bodegas Doña Paula Estate Malbec, Uco Valley, 2022; Trapiche, Tesoro, Mendoza, 2021.

£15-£20 Master and Gold – Bread & Butter, Mendoza, 2022, Master; Mascota Vineyards, Mendoza, 2021, Gold.

£20-£30 Gold – Bodegas Salentein, Numina Malbec, Uco Valley, 2021; Mascota Vineyards, Gran Mascota, Mendoza, 2020; Alpamanta Estate Malbec       , Mendoza, 2021; Bodegas Bianchi, Bianchi Particular, San Rafael  , Argentina, 2021; Château de Haute-Serre, Georges, Occitanie, France, 2020; Alpamanta Estate, Respect Malbec, Mendoza, 2021; Bodegas Bianchi, Enzo Bianchi, Uco Valley, 2020; Bodegas Salentein, Single Vineyard Los Cerezos Malbec, Uco Valley, 2019; Wakefield/Taylors Wines, Taylor Made Malbec, Clare Valley, Australia, 2022; Domaine Bousquet. Ameri Single Vineyard Organic Malbec, Gualtallary, 2021; Terrazas de los Andes, Origen Las Compuertas, Mendoza, 2021.

£30-£50 Master and Gold – Bodegas Salentein, Single Vineyard La Pampa Malbec, Uco Valley, 2019, Master; Bodega Norton, Lote Single Vineyard – La Colonia, Mendoza, 2022, Gold; Bodega Doña Paula, Selección de Bodega, Malbec, Uco Valley, 2020, Gold.

£50-£70 Gold – Finca Flichman, Dedicado Microterroir, Gravel & Stone, Mendoza, 2019; Château de Mercuès, 6666 Occitanie, France, 2020; Bodega Norton. Lote Single Vineyard – Lunlunta, Mendoza, 2022.

£70-£100 Master and Gold – Crocus La Roche Mère, Occitanie, France, 2020, Master; Bemberg Estate Wines, La Linterna Malbec Finca El Tomillo, Parcela #5, Uco Valley, 2016, Master; Terrazas de los Andes, Terrazas de Los Andes Parcel Los Castaños, Uco Valley, 2020, Master; Bodega Foster Lorca, Enrique Foster Firmado, Uco Valley,     2019, Master; Bodega Foster Lorca, Mauricio Lorca Grandes Varietales, Malbec, Uco Valley, 2019, Master; Catena Zapata, Malbec Argentino, Mendoza, 2021, Gold; Pyros Limestone Hill Malbec, Pedernal Valley, Argentina, 2019, Gold; Terrazas de los Andes, Parcel Licán, Uco Valley, 2020, Gold.