Malbec, that soft and fruity wine beloved of beef eaters, is gaining in popularity in the UK with many restaurants now offering a couple of examples in their wine lists, one at an entry level and another at the higher end of the price bracket. 

The inky violet malbec grape originally flourished in the Cahors region of France until a severe frost in the 1950s devastated crops. It then found a home in the foothills of the Andes, becoming one of Argentina’s most celebrated exports – and a welcome addition to wine cellars worldwide.

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Beefsteak Club Reserve Malbec 2013, 14.5%: £16.99, Amazon 

There’s a big clue as to what food the winemakers think this goes best with in the title. An award-winning, muscular malbec from Argentina’s Uco Valley, there are intense dark fruit flavours here with hints of vanilla and olives. It has also been aged in French oak for 18 months to give it a maturity and complexity complemented by ultra-smooth tannins. Get that T-bone steak ready.

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Altos Las Hormigas Terroir Malbec Valle De Uco 2015, 13.5%: £15.99, Waitrose Cellar

Tuscan winemaker Alberto Antonini arrived in Argentina in 1995 and was quick to realise the potential of the widely grown malbec grape. Growing grapes at high altitude in the Uco Valley in Mendoza, he has been able to produce top-quality wines that reflect the local terroir and have consistently put him in the top five of the country’s malbec producers. Luscious cranberry, cherry and black fruit flavours with floral and herbal notes and a long finish.

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Waitrose Argentinian Malbec Mendoza 2017, 12.5%: £7.99, Waitrose Cellar

From Mendoza, the heart of Argentina’s malbec growing region, a robust and punchy red that’s chock-full of plum, redcurrant and dark berry flavours with hints spice and herbs. A terrifically long finish and pleasing tannins make it the ideal accompaniment for a bowl of spaghetti bolognese or a succulent rare-to-medium steak.

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La Baume Grande Olivette Malbec 2016, 13%: £6.99, Majestic

This is a medium to full-bodied French malbec that’s not quite as forthright as its Argentinian rivals but still offers a full-on fruity experience with ripe, soft berry flavours, satisfying tannins and a welcome hint of acidity. To enjoy it at its best, serve with red meat, pork or even a comfort dish of bangers and mash.

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Catena Malbec 2015 Mendoza, 13%: £13.99, Majestic

We’re going high altitude here with a malbec made from grapes grown in the foothills of the Andes in vineyards owned by the Catena Zapata family since 1902. The microclimate helps to produce a wine with an elegant and complex character. As you’d expect, there are mouthfuls of fruit but also hints of peppery spice and distinct cocoa notes. Drink now or keep for up to five years.

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Vicentin Blanc De Malbec 2016, 14%: £17.95, Slurp

Here’s something different. The hand-picked grapes used for this malbec from the province of Barrancas in Mendoza are lightly pressed and fermented without skin contact to produce an elegant, slightly-pink wine with tropical fruit aromas and floral and herbal notes. It’s also been aged in American oak barrels for six months to give an extra bit of oomph.

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Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2015, 14.5%: £15.99, Amazon

Trivento is one of the best known and bestselling Argentinian malbecs available in the UK, and the award-winning Golden Reserve doesn’t disappoint. The winery is named after the three seasonal winds, the Polar, the Zonda and the Sudestada, which help to shape the terroir that gives this violet-tinted red wine its distinctive concentrated red fruit flavours and a smooth, lingering finish.

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Rigal Le Vin Noir Cahors Malbec 2015, 13%: £29.95, Slurp

We’re heading back to the spiritual home of malbec, Cahors in south-west France, with a “black wine” that won the platinum prize for best Southwest France Red in the Decanter World Wine Awards last year. With that sort of plaudit, you’d expect it to taste amazing and it does. It delivers huge helpings of vivid red and blackberry flavours with hints of violets, smooth tannins and a pleasing acidity. Can be drunk now or kept for several years.

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Tizac Organic Malbec 2015, 13.5%: £14, Organic Wine Club

From high up (5,000 feet) in the Fiambalá Valley in the north-west of Argentina comes a vibrant organic malbec, that, thanks to the hot days and cool nights and a prolonged growing season, has an intense and complex flavour with deep wild and red berry notes and a long and lingering finish. It’s a wine to enjoy with pasta or grilled meat dishes.

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Te Awa Left Field Malbec 2014, 13%: £12.99, Wine Rack

Here’s a quirky label for an out-of-the-ordinary malbec from New Zealand. Bucket-loads of blackberry and blackcurrant fruit flavours with tantalising hints of liquorice and cocoa make this a sure-fire winner. It has also been aged in French oak for 18 months, providing smooth tannins and a long and lingering finish.

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Château Du Cedre 2014 Cahors, 13%: £21, Organic Wine Club

This is an organic wine from the French heartlands that’s big in flavour, big in taste and big in quality. From the Verhaeghe family-owned Château du Cèdre, where the malbec grapes are grown on deep-rooted vines, this vintage benefited from a hot and dry summer, producing a wine with intense dark fruit flavours offset by a flinty minerality. Can be enjoyed now or kept for up to 10 years.

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Gauchezco Estate Malbec 2017, 13.5%: £11.95, Slurp 

This is a high-altitude malbec from the Cafayate region in the north-west of Argentina, where the vineyards can be found at heights of 1,600m, giving the wines a structured but balanced character with intense berry, plum and raisin flavours, as well as floral and herbal notes. It’s another wine that goes well with grilled meat dishes and one that also complements a slightly spicy meal.

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Kaiken Reserve Malbec 2016, 13.5%: £9.99, Amazon

Named after the wild goose that crosses the Andes between Chile and Argentina, this wine marks the cross-country journey of Chilean winemakers Aurelio Montes Snr and Jnr, who have set up in Argentina’s premium Uco Valley, where they produce a malbec at some 950m above sea level. Made with 96 per cent malbec and 4 per cent cabernet sauvignon, it’s fruity and well-balanced with notable strawberry and plum flavours, and hints of herbs and spice. It’s a superb accompaniment to beef or grilled meat dishes.

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Trivento Eolo Malbec 2014, 14.5%: £44.99, Ocado

Want to push the boat out? Then this should do it for you: a premium malbec with a taste to match. This comes from a century-old vineyard (hence the snazzy “100” metal tag on the label) irrigated using historic techniques of dykes and ditches that flood it with water from the upper Mendoza river in Argentina. Picked and sorted by hand, then aged for 18 months in French oak and a further 12 months in the bottle, this is a complex and concentrated malbec that’s huge on flavour with notes of spice and herbs and ultra-smooth tannins. A wine to savour.

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Château De Chambert Cahors 2012, 13.5%: £26.99, Eynsham Cellars 

From the largest certified-organic vineyard in Cahors comes this a blend of 85 per cent malbec and 15 per cent merlot. The merlot gives the wine a youthful exuberance, while the malbec prolongs its cellaring potential, which could see it kept for another 10 to 15 years. It delivers lots of rich dark fruit flavours, as you’d expect, while the 12-month ageing in French oak provides it with soft and silky tannins and a long finish.

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The Verdict:

There’s a huge range of malbec wines available on the high street with most coming from Argentina, although good Cahors wines are still an attractive buy. The Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec is a deserved big seller, while the Waitrose Argentinian Malbec Mendoza is a splendid entry-level offering, or, for something a little different, why not try the white Vicentin Blanc De Malbec? The Rigal Le Vin Noir Cahors Malbec is a great French wine, as is the Château Du Cedre Cahors. But our Best Buy is the robust Beefsteak Club Reserve Malbec.

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