Red alert

Bar­be­cu­ing steak? Match it with a bot­tle of Ar­gen­tinian mal­bec

The Sunday Telegraph - Stella - - EAT IN -

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.

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