For the occasional wine drinker, it's certainly not as commonly known as Merlot, or as well represented on wine lists as Chardonnay, but in many aspects, this up-and-coming varietal is as diverse as either.
Also known as Cot, Malbec is used sparingly in the French Bordeaux region, where it is, in small quantities, blended with other varietals. Increasingly, however, this thin-skinned grape is making a name for itself based on the successes of Argentinian vinters. The grapes require more heat and sun to mature than more common wines like Merlot, making the varied terrain of Argentina a great climate.
I found one of the more commonly distributed Malbecs at Harris Teeter. It is a 2006 Diseno from the Mendoza region ($12). Set against the Andes range, Mendoza produces some of Argentina's top Malbec grapes. Because Argentina is still fairly new to the global wine scene, good Malbecs are still difficult to find, and the best are rather pricey because of their limited quantities (though Wine Spectator did name Bodega Colome ($25) one of its top 100 wines of 2008, scoring 92 pts).
Diseno was good, but really didn't wow me. I'm not sure it's matured long enough to reach its full potential. I'll likely pick up another bottle and shelve it for a few years to really bring out the fruit (blueberry and cherry blossom) and the tobacco flavors.
In the meantime, it would serve well folks who aren't particularly fond of heavy red wines. It's fairly light, in comparison, and would pair well with lighter portions of red meat dishes or heavy pastas.