One of the traditional "Bordeaux varietals," Malbec has characteristics that fall somewhere between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. A mid-season ripener, Malbec can bring very deep color, ample tannin and a particular plum-like flavor component to add complexity to blends. 

While it is planted in Chile and Australia where it is usually blended with other red varietals, Malbec truly comes into its own in Argentina where it is the major red varietal planted and is almost always bottled as a single varietal. Argentinians make wines that resemble those made in Europe in flavor, but with softer, lusher structure, more like New World Merlots. 

Argentina's top wine-growing regions are essentially high deserts with rocky soils, loads of sunshine and dramatic differences in day and night temperatures. Malbec flourishes in these conditions, getting ultra-ripe but maintaining vibrant levels of acidity and developing smooth, almost sweet, tannins. 

Malbec's natural companion is beef, but it also pairs well with tomato dishes like chicken cacciatore, cassoulet, ham, meatloaf, pork, prime rib, sausage, stews and veal. 

Malbec pairs well with Cashel Blue, mild Cheddar, Edam, smoked Gouda, Iberico, Manchego, aged Provolone, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino cheeses, Roncal and Taleggio.