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How to Pair Food With an Argentine Malbec

by Chloe Hughes

Dark and robust, Argentine Malbec wines are bursting with the taste of sweet fruit complemented by a spicy note. These versatile characteristics make them suitable for serving with a variety of both classic and exotic world cuisines. Recommended pairings include in particular red meats, grilled meats, hard cheeses and pasta with tomato sauce, according to Wines of Argentina, the organization tasked with the promotion of the Argentine wine brand.

Know Your Malbec

Malbec is a grape variety that traces its roots back to Southwestern France. Nowadays, Argentina is the main producer of Malbec, for which a Controlled Denomination of Origin guarantees quality standards within specific geographical areas. Intensely dark in color, Malbec wines boast aromas of cherries, strawberries, plums and even cooked fruit. The climate and soil at the foot of the Andes mountains contribute to sweet and silky tannins, while oak aging favors the development of coffee, vanilla and chocolate bouquets.

Traditional Asado

Argentina is much celebrated for its quality meat, which is often barbecued on coal or firewood. Pairing an Argentine Malbec with an “asado,” which refers to both the grilling technique and the cookout event, is a natural choice. In a traditional asado, offal, blood sausage and chorizo are served first, while the main course gets underway. Choice beef cuts include sirloin, flank, ribs, fillet, rump and skirt. Seasonings are reduced to the bare essentials and sometimes consist only of salt, but the emblematic “chimichurri” sauce made of garlic, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes and olive oil is a must-have. When you don’t have the whole day to master the grill, serving a Malbec with a simple burger suffices.

Italian Roots

Argentines of Italian descent have honored the cultural heritage and culinary traditions brought along by their immigrant forefathers to the point of spreading Italian cuisine far and wide across Argentina. Malbec goes well with Italian mains such as lasagna or spaghetti with tomato sauce and meatballs, as well as with side dishes including potato gnocchi and cornmeal polenta enhanced with sharp-tasting Parmesan or pecorino cheese. “Food & Wine” magazine recommends pairing celebrity chef Mario Batali’s sweet-and-sour chicken flavored with orange juice, red wine and capers with a smooth Malbec.

Spicy Inspirations

The fruitiness and robustness of Argentine Malbec can complement the bold flavors of Indian, East-Asian, Mexican and African cuisines. Pair it with meats cooked in rich and spicy coconut curries or with chicken or duck glazed with hoisin sauce. “Food & Wine” proposes exotic steak seasonings, such as four-pepper steak flavored with peppercorns, soy sauce, wasabi and sesame oil, or Mexican spice-rubbed rib eye topped with lime butter and sirloin seasoned with a Berbere Ethiopian spice mix featuring chili, allspice, ginger and “ajwain” or “ajowan” seeds, to match the mouth-filling aromas of Malbec wines.

About the Author

Chloe Hughes has been writing about world cuisine since 2006. Her articles on classic and exotic foods, cooking classes, wine tastings, local restaurants and high-end gastronomy have been featured in regional magazines and on lifestyle websites.

Photo Credits

  • Seiya Kawamoto/Photodisc/Getty Images