Malbec is a medium to full bodied red wine, and so it needs to be paired with more full-flavoured foods.
However, unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec doesn’t have a super long finish or as aggressive tannins, which means it will pair extremely well with leaner red meats, and even lighter cuts like dark meat turkey or roasted pork. The secret to pairing Malbec is that it works well with pepper, sage, creamy mushroom sauces, melted cheese, and in particular, blue cheese.
Meats and Proteins
Malbec goes well with dark meat poultry, roasted pork, and leaner cuts of red meat (such as sirloin, fillet, and skirt steak).
You will be surprised how well the fruitiness in Malbec can complement more gamey and earthy meat cuts, such as buffalo burgers, ostrich burgers, or even venison.
For the veggie lover using mock-meats, be sure to use porcini mushroom powder, portobello mushrooms, or even cumin to ramp up the umami factor in your dish.
Malbec is one of the few bold red wines that consistently pairs well with blue cheese and other pungent, soft cheeses like gorgonzola. It will also pair well with Monterey Jack, Provolone and even melted Swiss cheese.
The key when pairing Malbec with cheese is to recognize that the finish isn’t extremely long, so a cheese which also does not have a super long, lingering taste is generally a good match.
For the vegan cheese maker, cashew creams with more herb-driven flavours will delight.
Herbs and Spices
The interesting thing about Malbec wines is that when you pair dry, desert herbs with it, the wine tastes fruitier and richer. This is good.
This is also why some resinous herbs like sage, rosemary, and even juniper make a striking complementary pairing when used with subtly.
Another fabulous herb pairing is mint. For some reason, Malbec tastes more complex when paired with mint, making it a great option for traditional lamb chops and mint jelly! Also, lean more towards shallots and onions versus the intensity of garlic, and try different kinds of peppercorns (white, pink, green, red) for surprising effects.
Finally, exotic spices, including clove, allspice, and cinnamon are great to compliment a richer and more smoky Malbec wine such as a Reserva.
Malbec is definitely more of a meat and potatoes wine. However, there are some interesting options for vegetables that can work well.
The most obvious example is roasted mushrooms of all kinds. Interestingly enough, something about the terroir in Argentina gives Malbec a subtle red pepper aroma that can really be embellished with roasted red peppers.
Foods to Avoid
As with many full-bodied red wines, it’s typically a good idea to avoid bitter greens, fishy fish, and vinaigrette salads.
Generally speaking, the bitterness in the greens will make the wine taste more bitter, the fish will linger on your palate and make the wine taste like a tin can, and the high acidity in the salad might make the wine taste flat. There are though, some clever workarounds, including cream-based dressings or roasting the vegetables sans acid and with the addition of more fat.
What’s important to remember is that each Malbec wine has a slightly different taste profile, so there are many right answers and always room for experimentation!