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Tannat vs Malbec

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Similarities of Tannat & Malbec

Tannat and Malbec are both red grape varietals that remain relatively underappreciated in their home countries of France while enjoying great success in the more extreme climates of South America. 

Both of these wines are known for their high tannin levels, which give them a strong, astringent taste and firm structure. They are also both commonly used in blending with other grape varieties to soften their tannins and add complexity to the wine. Additionally, both of these grapes originate from the southwestern corner of France – Malbec from Cahors, and Tannat from Madiran. 

Differences of Tannat Versus Malbec

Interestingly, although Tannat is a highly tannic wine, it is not a thick-skinned grape like Malbec. Due to this fact, Tannat is considered a more difficult grape to grow. It is susceptible to disease and rather picky about its specific soil and climate conditions. Malbec, on the other hand, is relatively easy to grow and adapts well to different soil and climate conditions.

Malbec is also generally made to be consumed young – while it can be aged, it doesn’t pick up as many interesting tertiary characteristics as Tannat. As we all know, Malbec has become the face of the Argentinian wine industry, where it is known for its easy-drinking texture and intense fruits. In a fascinating parallel, Tannat has become the pride and joy of neighboring Uruguay,  where it is characterized by elegant, blackberry-infused wines.

How To Distinguish Between Tannat & Malbec

Another significant difference between the two grapes is their flavour profile: Tannat typically has a dark, inky color and flavours of dark fruit like blackberry and plum, with a firm tannic structure and high alcohol content. Malbec, on the other hand, tends to be lighter in color and has flavours of red fruit like cherry and plum, with a softer tannic structure and a lower alcohol content – though some Malbecs can be very potent. 

In short, you can expect Tannat to be a delicious yet challenging experience, while Malbec is more easy-drinking and fruit-focused. Of course, many of these characteristics can change completely depending on the producer of the wine and the specific terroir of the vineyards.

Tannat vs Malbec Comparison Chart

Characteristic Tannat Malbec
Sweetness Dry Dry
Acidity Medium-High Medium-High
Tannins High Medium-High
Body Full Full
Tasting Notes Red and black fruits – plum, cherry, raspberry and blackberry. Hints of sweet spice, smoke and chocolate. Red and black fruits – ripe cherry, plum and pomegranate. Notes of black pepper, coffee, leather and tobacco.
Popularity 2,900 Monthly Searches 33,100 Monthly Searches
Calories Per Glass 122 calories 135 calories
ABV % 13 – 15.5% 13 – 15%

Pairing Food With Tannat & Malbec

Tannat and Malbec offer an excellent opportunity for regional pairing. These wines are a big deal in Uruguay and Argentina, and as luck would have it, so is red meat. They are both natural pairings for a peppery steak or a juicy burger, made South American style. For a deeper exploration of Tannat and Malbec pairings, take a look at our articles below.


Malbec food pairing