The world’s most popular choice of wine is red wine. The red grapes cultivated around the world produce wine that ages exceptionally well. Red wine is typically heavier than white wine, although that does not imply that it always contains more alcohol.
Red wine, when consumed in moderation, is good for your overall health. This is primarily as a result of a natural component called “Resveratrol” which, researchers believe, contributes significantly to the reduction in the risk for cancer, heart disease, and a variety of other ailments. This is perhaps the reason why wine drinkers toast to one’s health at events or occasions.
Main Differences Between Malbec vs Cabernet
The main difference between Malbec vs Cabernet are:
- Malbec taste varies significantly by region, whereas Cabernet has a very consistent taste across regions.
- Malbec pairs well with most meals, whereas Cabernet has more limited pairings
- Malbec tends to have a more full-bodied flavour profile, whereas Cabernet is a light-bodied wine with fewer tannins
Malbec vs Cabernet
The discovery of how to make wine has led to the evolution of one of the greatest industries in the world today. People have also become fascinated with comparing different wines from all around the world.
Wines come in several flavors as well as colors, which makes it tempting to compare one with the other. Today, two red wines, Malbec and Cabernet, will be the focus of this article.
But if you were told to choose any one of these wines, connoisseurs highly recommend Malbec since it pairs remarkably well with most meals and also packs delightsome flavors that Cabernet somehow does not measure up to. You will get to know why these experts choose Malbec over Cabernet as you read this article to the end.
Each wine will be discussed at length, and comparisons will be made even by yourself. Therefore, let’s get to it right away:
Malbec vs Cabernet: Similarities and Differences Explained
Malbec and Cabernet – or rather Cabernet Sauvignon, which is going to be the variety of Cabernet discussed in this article – are both full-bodied, fruity red wines. Full-bodied wines are usually viscous and heavy alcoholic beverages, and this is as a result of the percentage of alcohol in them.
However, there are two major differences between Malbec and Cabernet, and these differences revolve around food pairings and taste. Malbec has varying tastes – as you will find out later – and this depends primarily on the region where the inky black grapes are cultivated.
Cabernet, on the other hand, has a more consistent taste, irrespective of where the red grapes from which the wine was made, is cultivated or grown.
Another noticeable difference between these two red wines are in the types of foods they pair well with. Malbec pairs well with most meats and is therefore much more agreeable than Cabernet. The latter’s flavor is best experienced when it is paired with red meat.
Now, let’s take a look at the essential features, history, brand, food pairings, etc. of each of both Malbec and Cabernet.
Malbec vs Cabernet: What is Malbec?
Malbec is an acidic, full-bodied, deep purple-red wine with lush fruit flavors like black cherry and plum. Malbec is produced mostly in the second largest country in South America called Argentina. The wine is also known as Pressac or Côt Noir, Auxerrois, though this depends primarily on your location or where you are in the world.
Malbec: Is it high in tannins and ABV?
Malbec is one of the alcoholic beverages with high alcohol content, which is usually within the range of 13-14 percent. However, the amount of alcohol in this wine is on par with the amount of alcohol in wines like chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon.
A high-quality bottle of Malbec from Argentina is usually heavy on tannins, and this contributes significantly to the drier mouth feel. A low-priced bottle of Malbec produced in the United States, on the other hand, may have moderate tannins, which makes it appear softer or smoother on the palate.
The Characteristics of the Malbec Grape
The Malbec grape is distinctly known for its inky, dark color. It is small, tangy, sharp, and also ripens early. This wine grape also requires a dry climate and lots of sunshine to thrive, meaning that is not only relatively fickle but highly sensitive to changes in the climate.
Nevertheless, Malbec grapes are known to express terroir remarkably well; this means that influences of nutrients, dirt, climate – i.e. rain, temperature, altitude, growing season, etc. – and even production methods appear in distinct ways on the palate. This is the primary reason why Argentine Malbec tastes unmistakably different from Malbec grapes that are grown in California.
Argentine Malbec Grapes and Where They Are Cultivated
Before now, Malbec was grown in France for a long time. But then, its popularity began a steep decline when the wine produced from the inky grape became somewhat ubiquitous such that it was christened with different names. Thus, Malbec finally lost its distinction.
However, a less tannic and softer Malbec was cultivated in Argentina in the 19th century, precisely in 1868. It was first introduced to the South American country by French agronomist Michele Pouget. Since then, Malbec has become the most widely-cultivated grape in Argentina and a national variety as it flourished luxuriantly in the unusual climate of the country.
Argentinian Malbec is produced for the most part in the following regions of the country:
- San Juan: San Juan is the second largest wine-producing region in Argentina and features an arid and dry climate. This results in the production of medium-bodied wines which are best enjoyed by wine lovers as young varietals.
- Mendoza: The first Malbec grapevine cuttings obtained from France were planted in Mendoza. The Uco Valley in Mendoza is a very prominent wine-growing region in Argentina as a lot of winemakers have discovered that high altitudes allow Malbec grapes – as well as other wine-producing grapes – to develop that distinct acidity that is required to produce or yield a more vivid and elegant wine.
- Salta: Salta is a region with the highest altitudes in Argentina, and where many of Argentinian vineyards lie and thrive. At these high altitudes, the Malbec grape – which is traditionally thin-skinned – develops a thick skin over time in order to withstand the fierce UV-B radiation from the sun, leading to a more tannic, robust, and highly flavorful wine.
Malbec grapes exhibit heavy berry notes, and the wine is much loved by wine drinkers, thanks to its fruity flavors as well as its lower price tag. The best way to enjoy Malbec is when it is served at several degrees below room temperature.
Other Regions that Cultivate Malbec Grapes
Although Argentina is the leading producer of Malbec-based wines, thanks to their massive cultivation of the inky, black grape, there are more than a few countries around the world that grow noble Malbec grapes as well.
They are as follows, in no particular order:
- The United States: Malbec became very popular in the United States sometime in the 1990s. At the time, the grape was used in the production of domestic Bordeaux-style blends. Malbec is produced in Washington, Oregon, and California.
- France: France was where the first Malbec grapes were initially cultivated and the grapes were grown in Bordeaux and Cahors. However, in 1956, there was a natural disaster in which frost caused severe damage to more than 75 percent of the grapes. Although the vineyards were replanted using more fashionable varieties of Malbec – and other – grapes, it was never really the same again.
Since then, only two regions continued the cultivation of Malbec grapes, namely the Loire Valley and South-East Bordeaux. Bordeaux wine is a blend of six different grapes, and Malbec is one of them.
- Australia: Malbec was introduced to the smallest continent in the world in the 1800s primarily for bulk wine production. The grape grows mostly in Victoria and South Australia.
- South Africa: The first Malbec grapes were cultivated in South Africa in 1920. However, it was not bottled as a single varietal wine until the 1990s.
- New Zealand: New Zealand was very slow when it came to scaling the production of Malbec until the 1990s. Malbec from New Zealand is used – most of the time – in Bordeaux-style red blends. The primary Malbec-producing wine regions in New Zealand are Hawkes Bay and Gisborne.
- Chile: When Chile observed how successful Malbec thrived in Argentina, a neighboring country, they gained inspiration and decided to try their own luck by cultivating their grapes. The deep inky red grape is now the third most cultivated grape in Chile. Malbec is mostly used in Bordeaux-style blends in Chile. It is popularly cultivated in Curicó, Cachapoal, and Colchagua.
- Long Island, New York: The Malbec grape is also grown in Long Island.
What Malbec Tastes Like
Malbec has a fruity, jammy taste with a strong kick and relatively high alcohol and tannin levels. The deep purple-red, medium to full-bodied, alcoholic beverage portrays a wide variety of flavors which include:
- Pomegranate, blackberry, plum, raspberry, blueberry, black cherry, raisin
- Black Pepper
Malbec is usually sold as a dry, red wine varietal and even labeled as such. The primary reason why it is also found in blends is to add color. If you put in a little more effort in your search, you may even unearth dessert and sparkling Malbecs, too.
A 5-oz pour of Malbec has approximately 4 grams of carbs, 122 calories along with a wide-ranging variety of active ingredients and antioxidants which provide lots of health benefits you wouldn’t want to ignore.
Health Benefits of Drinking Malbec
Malbec grapes have exceptionally thick skins, and this simply implies that they have large amounts of the powerful antioxidant resveratrol which some plants produce to combat stress.
Resveratrol is that antioxidant that helps to regenerate or renew damaged cells in the human body and also helps in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and other neurodegenerative issues.
Malbec is a red wine that is known to contain more antioxidants than other varieties of red wines. In fact, according to valid research, Malbec has twice as many antioxidants as Cabernet and at least four times as many as a Merlot.
Recent studies of the antioxidant resveratrol found in Malbec wine has shown that it may be effective in slowing down the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The regular – and moderate – consumption of red wine is also alleged to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Further studies, however, are required to substantiate this claim.
Foods that Malbec pairs Remarkably Well with
Malbec is a versatile alcoholic beverage that can stand up easily to spicy Mexican, Indian, Thai, Italian or Cajun fare. However, it is best paired with spices and meat-laden dishes, especially red meat. Barbecue is one of the meat-driven dishes that pairs exceptionally well with Malbec.
Malbec is not as heavy as its counterpart, Cabernet Sauvignon or even as sweet as Chianti. Nevertheless, the deep-red wine is robust enough to be compatible with the heartiest of dishes. Malbec also pairs well with a few hearty fish entrees such as tuna steaks, salmon, and swordfish.
The next time you order your favorite lamb, game, mushroom, chili, beef, sausage, barbecue sauces, and stews, you should consider washing them down with a reasonably chilled bottle of Malbec wine.
Here are other highly popular and excellent Malbec food pairings:
- Manchego or gouda cheeses
- Lean red meat
- Dark meat poultry
The Best Malbec Brands from Key Malbec Producers
Argentinian vintners have become masters at the art of cultivating Malbec. However, there are a variety of Malbec wines from other parts of the world, and the best way to differentiate them from the one produced in the Uco Valley is via tasting. Make no mistake about it: the taste of say, French Malbec is quite different from Malbec from the Uco Valley. The limestone soil in Cahors, France produces Malbec that is more tannic and a tart while Malbec cultivated under the sunny skies and dry climate in Mendoza produces a rich, fruity, and floral wine.
The best way to differentiate one from the other, as mentioned earlier, is to drink it. Therefore, the following highly-rated brands of Malbec wines should be your target:
- Paul Hobbs
- Bodegas Piedra Negra
- Vina Cobos
- Bodegas Septime
- Don Miguel Gascón
- Château du Cèdre
- Château Quatre
- Eighty Four Wines
- Boutique Winery
- Vinaceous Wines
Other internationally recognized wineries include the following:
- Susana Balbo
- Altos Las Hormigas
- Los Siete
- Viu Manent
Malbec vs. Cabernet: What is Cabernet?
There is a wide variety of Cabernet wines. The most popular ones are Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. In this article, the focus will be on Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied, acidic red wine that is produced from the international red wine grape variety that bears the same name. This red wine has strong tannins, which wane as the alcoholic beverage ages.
Cabernet has a high alcohol content, and this lies within the ranges 13 – 14 percent. Cabernet is produced in copious amounts, and as a result of this massive production volume, the red wine is incredibly popular and highly inexpensive.
Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes
Cabernet Sauvignon grape is known as a hybrid grape. It was initially formed by the crossing of sauvignon blanc (white grape) and cabernet franc (red grape). Cabernet Sauvignon wines come in single-varietals – which are produced from 100 percent cabernet sauvignon grapes – as well as blends.
Cabernet grapes have this powerful presence in blends that make them remarkably unique. They are blended frequently with other complementary but strong grapes.
Characteristics of the Cabernet Sauvignon Grape
This Cabernet grape varietal exhibits three unique features:
- Great for aging in barrels: Cabernet portrays a highly unusual feature as it blends exceptionally well with oak, especially during the fermentation process and barrel aging. This property is primarily responsible for or facilitates the great aging attribute that Cabernet is known for.
Oak barrels perfectly mellow the tannins in Cabernet, and new aromas and fresh flavors are unleashed.
- Small, yet incredibly sturdy: Despite the small size of the cabernet sauvignon grapes, the fruit is very sturdy and thrives almost anywhere and everywhere, without regard to the climate. The grape is so inured to hardship or fatigue that it can easily withstand – and survive – nearly all diseases, weather conditions, insect infestations, etc. thereby making it priceless to both vintners and consumers.
- Tannic and Thick: Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are loaded with tannins and come with thick, black skins. It does not ripen early on the vine but takes its time. It is also less fussy when the time comes for picking.
Regions where Cabernet Sauvignon Grows
Cabernet Sauvignon can virtually be grown anywhere around the world, as it was pointed out earlier in this article, thus making it an international grape. International grapes are never confined to their origins but are vast in varieties that are utilized globally. Cabernet Sauvignon is a late-ripening grape that appears to grow well in hot climates.
Despite the fact that cabernet sauvignon is an international grape, there are several notable Cabernet-growing regions still in existence today. They are as follows and arranged in no particular order of importance:
- Napa Valley: California became very famous for its cabernets in the ‘70s. “The Judgment of Paris” was an event that was organized during which two French judges were mandated to taste two distinct red wines while they were blindfolded. The wines that were to be tasted was cabernet from California and Bordeaux from France.
The California Cabernet was viewed as the most preferred choice, and this revelation stunned the wine universe which had held this belief that France was the king of monopoly when it came to the production of the world’s best red wines.
- South Australia: South Australia is renowned for its red clay soil as well as dry climate which contribute significantly to the cultivation and smooth wine-growing – and production – of some of the best cabernet sauvignons that the wine world has seen and enjoyed.
- Sonoma Valley (Sonoma County): Sonoma Valley also on the world stage when it comes to the production of lush cabernets. The terroir of the grapes benefits from its proximity to the ocean as well as geographic features such as the Russian River, etc.
- Wineries in California: Several wineries in California have gone ahead to produce pure – i.e. 100 percent – Cabernet Sauvignon, in direct contrast with other Cabernet-growing regions like Bordeaux, which is renowned for its blends.
- Bordeaux, France: It is a widely held belief that Cabernet Sauvignon came into existence in France. The Médoc region is particularly known for its significant relationship with cabernet vines.
The Most Popular Blends of Cabernet Sauvignon
The most popular blend of Cabernet Sauvignon is the Bordeaux blend, which is a combination of cabernet grapes with merlot grapes. Moreover, Cabernet is also blended frequently with:
What Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like
Cabernet Sauvignon is renowned for its distinct green bell pepper flavor which occurs as a result of a compound known as pyrazine. This red wine, which ranges from medium-bodied to full-bodied is beyond any doubt, dry in style. Cabernets are characterized by high tannins which support the characteristics of the rich dark fruit while serving to provide complexity and structure.
Cabernet has a bright nose which effectively tones down overly fruity or sweet notes. Typical flavors and aromas exhibited by Cabernet include:
- Crème de cassis
- Black cherries
- Warm Spice
- Black pepper
Types of Foods Cabernet Sauvignon Pairs well with
As you already know, Cabernet Sauvignon is profoundly tannic and highly acidic. Cabernet has the tendency to get better with age, and since the younger the cabs, the more substantial the meal ought to be, it only implies that older cabs will pair exceptionally well with soft textures. Weak textures or flavors can leave you with a disagreeable dry mouthfeel.
Now, thanks to the tight tannins present in this alcoholic beverage, Cabernet Sauvignon is made for protein and fat with particular emphasis on red meat. Cabernet Sauvignon pairs exceptionally well with the following:
- Dark chocolate;
- Potato gnocchi with cream sauce;
- Beef Wellington;
- Grilled game;
- Strong-flavored cheese (e.g. Gruyere, Stilton);
- Prime rib;
- Sausage dishes, etc.
Wine Tasting Cabernet Sauvignon
As mentioned earlier in this section, several regions around the world produce high-quality Cabernet Sauvignons. If you want to know how they taste, you should start by sipping a Bordeaux Cabernet and maybe a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa.
Can you detect the green bell pepper flavor in these red wines?
What about earthiness?
Can you accurately note the similarities and differences of the ripeness of the grapes?
After you are done with the first two, you can now go for the following cabernets:
- Cabernet Sauvignon Antica 2014: Antinori Family Estates (Napa Valley, California). Aromas of currants and fresh herbs; medium to high acidity; full body; chewy tannins. Pick this one up at Wine.com here.
- Seña Blend 2015: Valle De Aconcagua, Chile. Blend: 57 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 21 percent Carmenere, 12 percent Malbec, 7 percent Petit Verdot, and 3 percent Cabernet Franc. Seña has a deep, highly refined expression of cabernet as well as a peppery, spicy edge, thanks to the presence of carmenere. Seña is also one of the first Chilean wines that scored up to 100 points on the Wine Spectator Scale. You can also find this one directly on Wine.com right here.
- Sassicaia 2004: Tenuta San Guido (Tuscany, Italy). It is the first Super Tuscan that is made from cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon on the Italian coast. It is an iconic, Bordeaux-like, elegant wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Nutrition
A 5-oz serving of cabernet sauvignon has approximately 4 grams of carbs and 123 calories. It is also loaded with a variety of active ingredients and potent antioxidants that contribute to the enhancement of the health of regular wine drinkers.
Benefits of Drinking Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is also home to one of the most potent antioxidants in nature, called resveratrol. Most red wines out there today contain this powerful antioxidant; however, cabernet sauvignon is an excellent source of this antioxidant, all thanks to the thick skin the grape comes with. Research has also shown that the grape has the potential to retain a much higher concentration of resveratrol.
Cabernet Sauvignon portrays nearly all the attributes found in red wines, and this includes slowing down the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. When consumed moderately, red wine can boost your immunity.
Cabernet Sauvignon is also known to lower the risks of prostate and breast cancer as well as cardiovascular diseases.
Uses of Cabernet Sauvignon
You should allow a bottle of cabernet sauvignon to breathe for at least twenty minutes before serving it at room temperature. This red wine pairs excellently well with the following:
- Red meats
- Tangy cheese varieties such as goat or blue cheese
Cabernet Sauvignon is a relatively affordable and highly popular cooking wine.
Key Producers of Cabernet Sauvignon to Try
Here are some of the key producers of this remarkable red wine known as Cabernet Sauvignon:
- Grgich Hills
- Greg Norman
- Joseph Phelps
- Screaming Eagle
- Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
- Concha Y Toro
- Paul Hobbs
- Chateau St. Jean
- Clos du Val
- Beaulieu Vineyard
- Chateau Maucaillou Le Bordeaux
- Sterling Vineyards
- Shafer Vineyards
- Pine Ridge
Malbec vs Cabernet: Comparison
Needs a lot of sun and heat to thrive well
Needs less sun and heat to grow vigorously
Not as complex as Cabernet
Has a plum-like flavor
Has a blackberry, black cherry, and black currant profile
An excellent choice for delicate meals
A poor choice for delicate meals
Long, intense and expressive aromas of cherry jam, sweet red fruit, and plums.
Big, bold, and opens up with deep, dark inky color along with aromas of toasted oak and dark cherry
Red Wine Styles
Most winemakers are responsible for the style of wine they produce. Red wines have been categorized under the “body type” variety. But what passes through your mind when wine connoisseurs refer to a particular red wine as “medium-bodied” or “full-bodied?” If you are new to the world of wine, these terms may be somewhat confusing.
Therefore, let’s break it down so that you will understand these terms the next time you hear them being bandied about.
Light-bodied wines come with fewer tannins, which is also less present in the palate. Wines under this category are somewhat or tend to be less demanding partners when paired with flavored foods. One perfect example of a red wine which is light-bodied is derived from the Gamay grape varietal and known as Beaujolais Nouveau, France’s famed red wine.
A wine that is referred to as “medium-bodied” comes with a bit more tannins than the light-bodied variety of red wine. However, medium-bodied wines do not have anything near the pucker power of an Italian Super Tuscan or a California Cabernet Sauvignon.
Prime examples of medium-bodied red wines include Chianti, Shiraz, Merlot, etc.
Wines that are termed “full-bodied” come with the highest tannin as well as the highest alcohol content. Typical examples of full-bodied red wines are Italy’s red-hot Super Tuscan, France’s prestigious Bordeaux wines, and California’s Cabernets.
As a rule, light-bodied reds usually taste or feel more like ordinary water in the mouth. However, full-bodied wines are heavier, somewhat like milk. This particular effect is due to the alcohol content and higher tannin they boast of. Red wines are also often described as either sweet or dry.
The Difference in Grape Variety
A wines variety is usually describing the wine grape that is used to produce a particular wine. Most wines come with only one variety listed on the label. According to the law in the United States, the Federal government stipulates that there should be 75 percent (minimum) of a particular grape present in a specific wine if that wine is to be designated or categorized under a particular wine type.
A Large Number of Varieties
Wine grapes – just as with several other cultivated crops – have a vast number of varieties which have a deep impact on both the texture and taste of the fruit. For instance, there are over 7,000 varieties of the apple fruit cultivated throughout the world, and the United States alone is home to more than 2,500 varieties.
So, it shouldn’t really be a surprise when you learn that there are at least 10,000 wine grape varieties in the world today. Not all of these grapes are red, though, and many of these grapes are not too common while some are not juicy enough for noble wine consumption. The difference in the variety of the wine grapes ranges from a perceptive change in texture to a huge and highly noticeable difference in a wine’s entire expression.
Most wine lovers are very familiar with – and love – the noble red grape varieties Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, etc. These, of course, are not the only red wine types that are available.
Blended wines vs Mono Varieties
The varieties of red wine also vary in a limitless number of ways. Each variety, i.e. a pure grape wine which uses a single wine grape type, will have a somewhat different flavor profile. The flavor profile arises from a large number of factors which influence the ultimate expression.
Some red wines are, in reality, mixtures of different varieties of red wine grapes. These are referred to as “blended wines.” For instance, some wine producers or vintners may decide to mix Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese to produce a particular red wine which is a combination of the structure and boldness of a Cabernet Sauvignon and the noble red-fruit characteristics of Sangiovese.
A relatively large number of non-European – or New World – wines are perfectly blended. Nevertheless, varietal red wine types are still prevalent and much favored among the New World winemakers.
A majority of New World wines are named after the variety – such as Pinot Noir – while several Old-World wines are named after their region. For instance, “Burgundy” is a generic name that refers to wines that are produced in the Burgundy region of France.
Frequently Asked Questions:
If you want to enjoy a good glass of Malbec at its best, make sure the temperature is between 59 and 64 °F (15 and 18 °C). To get the right temperature, put in the fridge approximately 40 minutes before serving.
We can agree that wine is one of the most popular drinks around the world. This beverage is part of many cultures and even a daily ritual for many, but if you want to know which is the country that consumes more wine per capita, maybe you will be surprised: Vatican City, with 54 litres per capita/per year.
There are some ways in which it is advised to drink each variety of wine. Red wines are best at room temperature or slightly chilled, while whites, rosé and sparkling wines are recommended to drink cold.
Conclusion for Malbec vs Cabernet
As you can see, both Malbec and Cabernet are wines that bring full flavors to the palate. Both wines are excellent options, though their difference – in terms of taste, etc. – make them two distinct choices.
If you were obligated to choose only one of these wines for your cupboard, Malbec should be the obvious choice. This is because Malbec pairs exceptionally well with most meats out there, and therefore, this means that this wine would go well with more meals than its counterpart, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Malbec is also a flavorful and robust wine with variety and subtle nuances, though this depends primarily on where the grapes were harvested. Additionally, Malbec offers more variety than Cabernet while it maintains an excellent reputation for compatibility of most of the meals served in restaurants or homes.
A Word of Caution: Excessive consumption of any alcoholic beverages can lead to addiction, thereby resulting in an increased risk of chronic diseases, liver problems, etc.
Therefore, please drink wine in moderation. Pregnant women should avoid consuming alcohol completely. Also, if you are on any medication or in line to undergo any major or minor type of surgery, it is considered wise to consult your physician first before consuming any alcoholic beverages. Please drink responsibly!