The Rise and Rise of Malbec

Malbec Grapes at Cullen Wines

By Fergal Gleeson

Cullen Wines, one of Margaret River’s founding wineries has a long history with Malbec. Cullen Wines make a ‘Preservative Free’ Malbec as well as two delicious Malbec and Petit Verdot blends ‘Red Moon’ and ‘Mangan Estate Block’. 

Proprietor and highly awarded Winemaker Vanya Cullen also sees Malbec as a varietal on the rise right across many Australian wine regions.  

I ask her about why she blends Malbec with Petit Verdot.

“Malbec gives the power, unctuous fruit and flowers. Also violets, roses and mulberry. Petit Verdot gives the line and mineral acidity. They are a perfect pair like Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon”, she says.

I asked Vanya to compare Margaret River Malbec to Shiraz or Cabernet for drinkers who are less familiar with the varietal.

“Malbec is a variety better suited to Margaret River’s Mediterranean maritime conditions than Shiraz,” she tells me. The Mediterranean maritime conditions are perfect for this grape variety to grow an elegant style.”

“Malbec has a plush soft texture palate whereas Cabernet has the nervous energy and structure and the bitter chocolate mid palate so good for food pairing. Shiraz is somewhere in the middle of these two Margaret river star grape varieties.” 

Fraser Gallop

Fraser Gallop’s Winemaker Clive Otto is also very excited about Malbec. “I have always thought Malbec a bit of an unsung Hero in Margaret River,” Clive tells me. “The Violet perfume of the variety is quite intoxicating and quite different tannin profile from Cabernet, I like to say it has front of mouth tannins whereas Cabernet has back palate tannins.”

“It is more light to medium bodied (Malbec and Pinot) rather than full bodied (Cabernet) and has lovely Damson Plum flavours with a succulent mid palate.” 

“I think we have a great clone of Malbec here in Margaret River which we refer to as the Houghton clone, from the Houghton Vineyard established by Jack Mann in the Swan Valley and before that South Africa, and before that France. It has quite different characters to the Argentine clone.”

Fraser Gallops Malbec typically sells out within a month or 2 from release.

Clive reckons that we will see more and more Malbec in it’s own right and as a blender for Cabernet and Shiraz. “It’s becoming more popular than Merlot in Margaret River as it has more perfume and less green notes than the predominant Merlot clone we have here,” he tells me.

Photo by Breakingpic on

Favourite Food Pairing Suggestions:

Mark Messenger, Juniper Estate – Grilled mushrooms, to pasta to barbecued/grilled meats, to just a lovely glass on its own!

Vanya Cullen, Cullen Wines – Beetroot risotto lamb shanks. 

Clive Otto, Fraser Gallop- The style we make her would pair nicely with duck, rabbit or game dishes.

From Tales and Trails Magazine. Follow greatwineblog on insta and Facebook for more more wine stories and reviews.

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