The delicious full-bodied red wine that is a Malbec grows mostly in Argentina and is certainly a wine worth celebrating. World Malbec Day is celebrated on April 17, to commemorate the day when president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento of Argentina officially made it his mission to transform Argentina’s wine industry.
This highly celebrated Argentinian wine is known for its plump, dark fruit flavours and smoky finish, but actually originated in France where it grows in the Sud-Ouest. Today the majority of France’s Malbec is found in Cahors, a small town on a switchback river that gently flows towards Bordeaux. Malbec quickly became common as a blending grape in Bordeaux’s top 5 wine grapes. However, because of the grapes’ poor resistance to weather and pests, it never surfaced as a top French variety. Instead, it found a new home in Mendoza, Argentina. Today, Argentina leads the production of the grape with over 75% of all the acres of Malbec in the world.
The structure of Argentinian Malbec has a lot of very ripe fruit but lower acidity overall; with Cahors, the structure is built around the freshness of dark blackberry fruit and higher acidity.
YOUNG, FRUITY MALBECS
The lighter-bodied, young and fruitier styles are great with charcuterie and other meat dishes with a medium flavour profile like fajitas or beef burritos
BEEF, BEAN AND CHEESE BURRITOS
- 6 flour tortillas
- 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, more or less to taste
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 16 oz. can refried beans
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup salsa (medium for more of a kick)
- Hot sauce to taste
ADDITIONAL FILLINGS/TOPPING INGREDIENTS
- Sour cream
1). Add onions and beef to a large skillet and cooked over medium heat until onions are softened and meat is cooked through. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Drain off any excess fat (if there is any).
2). Stir in all of the spices/seasonings, followed by refried beans until well incorporated, followed by sour cream and salsa. Heat through.
3). If using raw tortillas, cook according to package directions. If using cooked tortillas, stack them together on a plate, cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds or until warmed through.
4). Line the middle of each tortilla with the desired amount of cheese. Top with Bean and Beef filling and any additional desired filling ingredients. Fold in the edges of each tortilla and roll up “burrito style.” Serve with additional sour cream, guacamole, etc. (optional).
5). Optional to “crisp” burritos: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add burritos, 3 at a time, seam side down, and cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side.
HEAVYWEIGHT MALBECS (MORE EXPENSIVE, FULL-BODIED MALBECS OF 14%+)
The higher-alcohol Malbecs pair perfectly with steak, roast beef and venison, and also with more substantial vegetarian dishes such as burnt aubergine or roasted root vegetables.
Another dish that packs a punch is Lamb tagine, which rich flavours make a delicious match for a heavyweight Malbec.
LAMB TAGINE WITH DATES AND APRICOTS
- 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp blanched almond slivers
- 2 red onions diced
- 3 cloves garlic smashed and diced
- 2 tbsp ginger paste
- pinch of saffron threads
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tsp coriander seeds crushed
- 1 lb lamb cubed shoulder or leg
- 8 dates seeded
- 8 apricots
- 4 strips of orange peel
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp of Ras el Hanout optional
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1). Heat the butter and oil in a tagine or heavy casserole baking dish. Stir in the almonds and sauté until golden. Add the diced onions and garlic, stir and cook over low heat until golden. Stir in the ginger paste, saffron, cinnamon sticks and coriander seeds. Add the cubed lamb pieces and stir to make sure everything is coated with the onion and spices. Sauté for 4 minutes.
2). Next, pour enough water in to cover the meat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour or until meat is tender.
3). Add the dates, apricots and orange peel, stir to mix and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes.
4). Stir in the honey and ras-el-hanout (optional) and simmer another 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The sauce should be syrupy. If it is too watery, allow to simmer and thicken with lid off for 5 minutes, or add some water if necessary.
5). Top with chopped cilantro and serve alongside couscous and bread of choice.
MORE RUSTIC STYLES OF MALBEC SUCH AS CAHORS AND COT
Look to the foods enjoyed locally in the South of France, such as slow-cooked lamb, cassoulet, or confit de canard.
Other dishes, such as a braised leg of lamb, lamb shanks or braised beef stews are great to enjoy with a more rustic style of Malbec.
SLOW COOKED LAMB SHANKS WITH RED WINE SAUCE
- 4 lamb shanks, around 500g each
- 2 tsp salt, separated
- 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil, separated
- 1 cup onion, finely diced (brown, yellow or white)
- 1 cup carrot, finely diced (optional)
- 1 cup celery, finely diced (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2½ cups red wine, full bodied (good value wine)
- 800g can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken stock (or water)
- 5 sprigs of thyme (preferably tied together), or 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 dried bay leaves or 4 fresh
- ½ to 1½ cups hot water
1). Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
2). Pat the lamb shanks dry and sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt and black pepper.
3). Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy based pot (dutch oven is ideal) over high heat.
4). Sear the lamb shanks in 2 batches until brown all over, about 5 minutes.
5). Remove lamb onto a plate and drain excess fat (if any) from the pot.
6). Turn the heat down to medium low. Heat remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in the same pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sauté for 10 minutes until the onion is translucent.
7). Add the red wine and turn up the heat to medium-high. Bring it to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan to mix all the brown bits into the wine. Simmer for 3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol a bit.
8). Add the remaining ingredients (including remaining 1 tsp salt and pepper) and stir to combine.
9). Place the lamb shanks into the pot, squeezing them in to fit so they are mostly submerged.
10). Bring back up to simmer, cover, then transfer to the oven for 2 hours.
11). Turn the lamb shanks, cover, then return to the oven for another 30 minutes (so 2½ hours in total). The lamb should be very tender, the exposed surface of the liquid should be browned and the sauce should be reduced down to about ¼ of the original amount.
12). Carefully transfer the lamb to a plate and pick out the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
13). Skim excess fat off the surface of sauce. Use a stick blender to puree the sauce to make it smooth and thick. Use hot water to adjust the thickness and intensity of the sauce. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
15). Serve the lamb shanks on mashed potato or cauliflower puree with plenty of sauce!
SO, THERE YOU HAVE IT, 3 GREAT RECIPES TO ENJOY THIS WORLD MALBEC DAY