Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: April 22, 2023

Ultimate Malbec Food Pairing Guide [20 Divine Food Pairings]

Malbec food pairing guide

Malbec, known for its velvety tannins and voluptuous dark fruit flavor, has nearly all the makings for an excellent pairing wine.

Its moderate acidity and full mouthfeel allow it to stand up to richly flavored dishes without overpowering.

This guide covers everything you need to know about curating the perfect food pairing with Malbec. 

With tasting notes, regional differences, pairing tips, and tons of recommendations, we’ve got you covered!

What Does Malbec Taste Like?

Before moving into the best foods to pair with Malbec, we must first understand what we’re dealing with. 

Malbec is a dry red wine, typically medium to full in body, low to medium in acidity, and has moderate tannins. It is most notably grown in Argentina, having originated in France. Since it grows in cool and warm climates, it has an eclectic flavor profile. 

When grown in warm climates, it exudes plush flavors of black cherry, plum, leather, and black pepper. In cooler climates, it is somewhat reserved, with bright red fruit flavors of raspberry and red cherry.

Malbec is typically oaked for a short period, as too long in the barrel leads to an unappealing bitterness. Subtle oak rounds out the sharp young flavors of Malbec and imparts light spice notes.

Argentinian Malbec

Over 70% of all Malbec comes from Argentina, with the best examples coming from the warmer climate of Mendoza. Here, Malbec is known for its inky color and vibrant fruit flavors. 

Expect Argentinian Malbec to emphasize dark fruit flavors of blackberry, fig, and black plum, with less flavor imparted from oak. 

Cahors Malbec

Despite Malbec’s increasing popularity in Argentina, it originally began as a building block of Bordeaux blends.

Today, due to the region's maritime climate, it has been reduced to a minor grape in the region. However, the region of Cahors in France still produces its fair share of this grape, which they refer to by its ancestral name, Côt.

In Cahors, Malbec can be expected to have more bright red fruit flavors of raspberry, red plum, and black pepper.

Malbec in this region typically benefits from extended oak aging, which rounds out the wine's sharp flavors and makes for a smoother and softer wine.

How to Pair Malbec

Wine pairing is supposed to be fun, and Malbec makes it easy. With big, bold fruit flavors and moderate acidity, this highly versatile wine works well with all sorts of dishes. 

Factors to Consider When Pairing Food With Malbec

Malbec is typically low to medium in acidity and moderate in tannins. These two factors make pairing this wine with fatty and richly-flavored dishes less than ideal. 

The reasoning is that high-fat dishes such as pork belly or ribeye benefit from high acid and highly tannic wines to cut through those rich flavors and textures.

Malbec is best paired with lean meats that are not overly rich, such as skirt steak, lamb, venison, or poultry. 

In addition, Malbec’s higher alcohol levels make it unsuitable for pairing with spicy dishes, such as harissa or Vindaloo, as these will accentuate the spice in the dish as opposed to alleviate it.

Related: How does Malbec compare to Cabernet Sauvignon?

The Best Food to Pair with Malbec

Now that we’ve covered the best dishes to avoid when pairing with Malbec, it’s time for some good news! Malbec is a wonderfully versatile wine that enhances all sorts of dishes. 

Here are some mighty food pairings for when Malbec is on the menu!

Malbec Meat Dish Pairings

steak Chimichurri

Steak Chimichurri

  • Flank steak with chimichurri- Chimichurri is an Argentinian green herb blend made of parsley, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Its zesty acidity will more than make up for an Argentinian Malbec with moderate tannins and acidity. Pair it with flank steak, and it’s irresistible.
  • Carne asada tacos - Lean meat with savory garnishments and a high acid pico de gallo has all the components necessary to make a great pairing with a warmer climate Argentinian Malbec. 
  • White fish with romesco - Romesco is a sauce composed of tomato, peppers, and almonds. When served atop oily, flaky fish, the two go together swimmingly - no pun intended. Pair with a French Malbec to enhance the sauce’s sweetness and brighten up the dish.
  • Roasted chicken and rice pilaf - Since Malbec has lower tannins, it’s the perfect red wine to pair with an easily overpowered protein such as chicken. A lighter, more fruity Malbec from Cahors is the best choice for this dish.
  • Black ‘n’ blue burger - Malbec and blue cheese pair perfectly together, and when combined with a charred, richly flavored burger, it’s an ideal pairing. Stick with a Washington Malbec, known for its more concentrated dark fruit flavor, which will stand up nicely with a hearty burger. 

Malbec Vegetarian Dish Pairings

Vegetable Ratatouille in a pan

Vegetable Ratatouille

  • Ratatouille - The combination of savory vegetables, herbs, and tomato makes this dish a great pairing with an inky, plush Argentinian Malbec.
  • Vegetarian pizza - You can't go wrong when it comes to pizza. An Argentinian or Washington Malbec will intensify the savoriness of the vegetables, and the acidity from the tomato sauce will balance the pairing perfectly. 
  • Pasta with vodka sauce - Vodka sauce is the perfect combination of creamy and rich, with a tomato base that will accentuate the bright acid from a French Malbec.
  • Veggie burger - Again, you can’t go wrong with burgers and red wine. Even a bean burger will taste more vibrant when paired with a Washington Malbec rich in delicious dark fruit flavor. 
  • Roasted vegetables - The savoriness of roasted vegetables can not be undermined. In many ways, it’s quite similar to a lean meat dish, and it deserves a well-matched wine, such as a French Malbec, to pair alongside. 

Malbec Appetizer Pairings

Charcuterie Board of Meat & Cheese

Charcuterie Board of Meat & Cheese

  • Charcuterie - This may be a broad category, but whether we’re talking cured meat, rich cheeses, or crusty bread, Malbec will easily accentuate anything you can put on a charcuterie board. 
  • Stuffed mushrooms - They’re savory, cheesy, and they have an unmistakable savory quality that will make your Malbec taste fruitier, sweeter, and less bitter. 
  • Caprese - The combination of creamy mozzarella, refreshing basil, and acidic tomato make for a wine-friendly pairing. French Malbec, in particular, will taste sweeter and more fruity when served alongside Caprese salad. 
  • Arancini cakes - Typically made of leftover risotto, cheese, and breadcrumbs, this is a richly-flavored appetizer that needs an equally flavorful wine such as a French Malbec.
  • Pesto with crostini - The bright and savory flavor from pesto will make a French Malbec taste more fruity and sweet, and when paired with buttery crostini, it makes for a well-rounded and ideal pairing. 

Malbec and Cheese Pairings

A Slice of Gorgonzola Cheese
  • Gorgonzola - Few pairings fit so perfectly as Malbec with blue cheese; honestly, any blue cheese will work. The richness and complexity of blue cheese pair perfectly with a berrylicious Malbec. 
  • Cheddar - Malbec does well when paired with salty cheese - but not overly so. Cheddar cheese is an excellent example of a flavorful cheese that will accentuate the velvety texture and fruit flavors of an Argentinian Malbec. 
  • Sage Derby - A semi-hard cheese closely related to cheddar but with delicate herb flavor laced throughout. Sage Derby is the perfect cheese to pair with a plush Mendoza Malbec, as the herbs and dark fruit flavor will balance well.  
  • Colby - Much like cheddar, Colby is a semi-hard cheese with a sharp, salty flavor that pairs wonderfully with a Washington or Argentinian Malbec. 
  • Smoked gouda - The smoked flavor and nutty finish from a smoked gouda make for a perfect contrast in flavor when paired with a Washington Malbec, known for intense fruit and subtle spicy notes. 

Malbec and Snack Pairings

Patatas Bravas in a bowl

Patatas Bravas

  • Patatas bravas - A classic Spanish tapas dish, patatas bravas are fried potatoes served with a sauce composed of tomato, red pepper, and smoked paprika. The combination of salty and acidic flavors will make a Washington or Argentinean Malbec taste sweet and well-rounded. 
  • Flatbread with goat cheese and caramelized plum - A bold, fruity Mendoza Malbec exudes flavors of black plum and black pepper, making it the perfect pairing with - well - plums. Add in tangy goat cheese and buttery flatbread, and it’s an ideal pairing.
  • Grilled cheese - Rich but not overly so, a savory grilled cheese will accentuate the berry-forward flavors of a Washington Malbec, helping it taste sweeter and more fruity.
  • Trail mix - The combination of savory roasted nuts and dried fruit is the perfect snack pairing for most red wines. Since black cherry and fig are flavors typically found in Argentinian Malbec, they will surely complement a trail mix with the same fruits. 
  • Chocolate-covered raisins - Much like trail mix, the combination of like-minded flavors such as chocolate and dried fruit will accentuate those same flavors in a glass of Malbec. 

Do you have any special Malbec food pairings? Share them down below and let the world know!



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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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