Barbecuing steak? Match it with a bottle of Argentinian malbec
Why is Argentina’s malbec such a stellar partner for steak, particularly for smoky barbecued steak? Mainly it’s the gorgeous, ripe fruitiness of this style of red, which is – or should be – loaded with black cherries, red plums, damsons and brambles, all flavours that work so well with the pink centre of the cut.
Barrel-ageing brings an oak-spice to the wine, which chimes in with charred edges of the flame-grilled beef. And the structure of a decent malbec (do avoid the cheapest if you are barbecuing steak) should offer enough firm tannin and grip to take on the meat, but with a certain plump roundness, which stops it from tasting too harsh.
The grape is originally from France, a minor player in the Bordeaux blend as well as an important variety in Cahors (where it is also called cot). French malbecs are more savoury and thick-set; better with more strongly flavoured lamb and slow autumnal braises on cold, dark nights. Now, while barbecue season is in full flow, it is Argentina’s brighter, juicier version, usually from the Mendoza region at the foothills of the Andes, that really shines.
Which is not say that steak is the only thing to eat with it. Duck makes another fine marriage with this malbec (we all know cherries and duck work, and this wine is very cherryish). As does – and this is a bit more outré – a slice of not-too-sweet, very-dark chocolate cake. Try it.