Best Malbec wines taste tested
Drinks expert Henry Jeffreys shares his top Malbecs from Argentina and beyond. He picks wines for any budget, with blowout bottles and plenty under £10
A wine merchant once let me into a secret about ordering from an unfamiliar wine list: go for the Rioja or the Malbec, and you can’t go wrong. Malbec is one of the very few grape varieties, like Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, that has become a brand name familiar to non-wine buffs.
What’s all the more remarkable is that 25 years ago the word ‘Malbec’ was almost unknown. In its home in south west France where it went into an often rather tough wine called Cahors, it was called Cot. In Bordeaux, however, it was known as Malbec but there was very little of it. Once an important variety, it had largely been superseded by Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, and Merlot. But there were acres and acres of the stuff in Argentina, where it was brought by French immigrants in the 19th century.
In the 1990s Argentinian producers managed to harness all that sunshine to transform this often awkward grape into something that people loved, full-bodied but with smooth tannins, lushly fruity and perfumed with violets. A new wine style was born, Argentinian Malbec. It’s become such a success that in south west France, they now call the grape Malbec instead of Cot, and it is generally made in a fruitier, more friendly style than in the past.
Most Malbec on the shelves comes from Argentina or France, but I have included a couple from other countries. For this tasting, I was particularly impressed with the sheer variety of Malbecs coming out of Argentina – from fruity easy-drinking wines to sturdy accompaniments to red meat. They don’t all taste the same and quality levels are better than ever. That wine merchant really was on to something.
Read on to discover the pick of the best Malbec wines, ranging from £6 to £20 a bottle. For more unbiased expert buyer's guides and taste tests, visit our review section to find 400+ round-ups of everything from the best English wine and prosecco to rosé. To learn more about wine, explore our complete wine varieties guide and discover all you need to know about Chenin Blanc, Garganega, Vermentino and much more. For regular wine deliveries direct to your door, sign up to the BBC Good Food Wine Club for discounts on exclusively curated wine cases chosen by experts and the BBC Good Food team.
Best Malbec at a glance
- Best Chilean Malbec: Viña Cono Sur Malbec Bicicleta 2019, £6
- Best budget Malbec: Videla Malbec Aranda 2021, £8.99
- Best value French Malbec: Tesco Finest Malbec Cahors 2020, £8.50
- Best South African Malbec: The Gabb Family Malbec 2020, £11.99
- Best French Malbec: Georges Vigouroux Malbec Le Grand Retour 2020, £11.99
- Best Malbec with Italian food: Pulenta Estate Malbec 2021, £13.95
- Best Malbec with roast beef: Opi Malbec Reserva 2020, £17.99
- Best Malbec with steak: Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2020, £15
- Best premium Malbec: Bodega Escorihuela Gascón Organic Malbec 2021, £19.99
Best Malbec to buy 2023
Viña Cono Sur Malbec Bicicleta 2019
- Available from Morrisons, £6
Best Chilean Malbec
Chile, on the other side of the Andes from Argentina, produces some pretty tasty Malbec. This is chunky with big dark fruit, ripe tannins, leather and a little nuttiness on the finish. Needs suitably hearty food to match with it but it’s just the thing to keep the cold out.
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Videla Malbec Aranda 2021
- Available from Majestic, £8.99
Best budget Malbec
We tend to think of Malbec as a big wine but it can also do fragrant and supple. This is so deliciously floral and fruity that you could even chill it a little and serve it with seared tuna. Great value, too.
Tesco Finest Malbec Cahors 2020
- Available from Tesco, £8.50
Best value French Malbec
Cahors, the original home of Malbec, tends to produce wines with more tannin than Argentina. That is the case here, but it’s also supported by acres of fresh ripe damson fruit so it’s not going to frighten the horses.
The Gabb Family Malbec 2020
- Available from Majestic, £11.99
Best South African Malbec
You can probably guess where this is from just by smelling it. It has that smokiness you often find in South African reds, combined with a warm cinnamon spiciness and strawberry fruit. Serve with spicy sausages.
Georges Vigouroux Malbec Le Grand Retour 2020
- Available from Majestic, £11.99
Best French Malbec
Another wine from Cahors, this is more traditional than the Tesco version. There’s a smell like old leather with dark fruit and violets. It’s robust on the palate with dark fruit and grippy leather, but with freshness and fragrance too. Try this with cassoulet.
Pulenta Estate Malbec 2021
- Available from Berry Bros & Rudd, £13.95
Best Malbec with Italian food
There’s more to Malbec than red meat as this decidedly floral take on the grape shows. It’s highly aromatic, even a little minty, with a light body and a delicious bitter cherry note. This would be excellent with tomato-based pasta dishes like spaghetti puttanesca.
Berry Bros & Rudd, £13.95
Opi Malbec Reserva 2020
- Available from Laithwaites, £17.99
Best Malbec with roast beef
Quite different to the usual plush Argentine wines, this tastes almost like Cahors. There’s firm tannins, leather, violets and plums. The next day it's a little softer and fruitier but still quite structured. This was excellent with rare roast beef.
Trivento Malbec Golden Reserve 2020
- Available from Tesco, £15
Best Malbec with steak
Trivento makes a huge range of wines (including some tasty supermarket own labels) but I’ve gone for a more upmarket version which is worth the extra money. It’s very spicy with violets, plums and the kind of furry tannins that love a nice bit of rare steak.
Bodega Escorihuela Gascón Organic Malbec 2021
- Available from Fine Wines Direct, £19.99
Best premium Malbec
The nose is really incredible on this, so pungent and spicy it’s almost a little like Campari. On the palate it's fresh and aromatic, with a citrus edge and spicy, ripe fruit. This is a Malbec made with a nod to Pinot Noir.
Fine Wine, £19.99
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This review was last updated in June 2023. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.
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