Chewy and forbidding, or juicy and fragrant? Malbec presents very different faces depending on which part of the world you're in.
Malbec hails from southwest France, where it forms a minor part in Bordeaux blends and a more major part in wines such as Cahors. However, its current claim to fame is as the force propeling the Argentine wine industry from glory to glory.
Malbec has finally emerged from semi-obscurity to find favor with growing numbers of winemakers around the globe. On the chewy side in its French home, it is at its fragrant juicy best in Argentina.
In France, Malbec typically produces wines packed with the telltale violet fragrance and berry/blackcurrant flavors, but which are also chewy and tannic. Northern Italy produces a lighter style of Malbec - sometimes Malbeck - but it's still on the tough side. But transport the grape to South America, and Argentina in particular, and a more friendly Malbec appears. It's still fruity and aromatic, but far less aggressive, and is great both on its own and in conjunction with Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Clare Valley in South Australia is another Malbec outpost, with Cabernet again a favored partner. Look out too for the handful of New Zealand versions.