Called Auxerrois or Côt Noir in Cahors, called Malbec in Bordeaux, Pressac in other places of France, the grape became less popular in Bordeaux after 1956 when frost killed off 75% of the crop. Despite Cahors being hit by the same frost, which devastated the vineyards, Malbec was replanted and continued to be popular in that area.
A popular but unconfirmed theory claims that Malbec is named after a Hungarian peasant who first spread the grape variety throughout France. However the French ampelographer and viticulturalist Pierre Galet notes that most evidence suggest that Côt was the variety's original name and that it probably originated in northern Burgundy. It is also said that Malbec names has its origin in a medical doctor’s surname Malbeck, who introduced this grape into Bordeaux.
While acreage of Malbec is declining in France, in Argentina the grape is surging and has become a "national variety" of sort that is uniquely identified with Argentine wine. The grape was first introduced to the region in the mid 19th century when provincial governor, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, instructed the French agronomist Miguel Pouget to bring grapevine cuttings from France to Argentina. Of the vines that Pouget brought were the very first Malbec vines to be planted in the country.
During the economic turmoil of the 20th century, some plantings of Malbec were pulled out to make way for the jug wine producing varieties of Criolla Grande and Cereza. But the grape was rediscovered in the late 20th century as the Argentine wine industry shifted it focus on premium wine production capable for export. As the Argentine discovered the unique quality of wine that could be made from the grape, Malbec arose to greater prominence and is today the most widely planted red grape variety in the country. As of 2007 there were over 66,000 acres (27,000 hectares) of Malbec in Argentina.
The grape clusters of Argentine Malbec are different from its French relatives have smaller berries in tighter, smaller clusters. This suggest that the cuttings brought over by Pouget and later French immigrant was a unique clone that may have gone extinct in France due to frost and the phylloxera epidemic. Argentine Malbec wine is characterized by its deep color and intense fruity flavors with a velvety texture.While it doesn't have the tannic structure of a French Malbec, being more plush in texture, Argentine Malbecs have shown similar aging potential as their French counterparts.
There is no doubt that this cepage adopted Argentina as its home, having now the most vineyards´ hectares in the country, from the North to the Patagonia. Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley vineyards, in Mendoza province, are considered the cradle of the most outstanding Argentine Malbec exemplars.
You can enjoy from youthful wines to rich and big ones with great aging potential, fortified or even sparkling wines made out of Malbec grape.
According to the specialist Robert Parker Jr, Argentine Malbec has taken up a preponderant place among the noblest wines in the world.
I recommend the following Malbec wines for you to enjoy and learn about the versatile character Malbec can have in Argentina:
- Mil Vientos Malbec 2007 - $18 ; An easy to drink, enjoyable wine. Great for a casual barbecue or a picnic!
- Flecha de los Andes Gran Malbec 2006 - $35; A powerful, rich and concentrated wine showing the attributes of Uco Valley. Definitely a food wine!
- Enrique Foster Limited Edition 2004 - $60: The elegant version of Malbec, smooth, well-balanced, nice acidity to pair with food, amazing finish!
Remember you have 25% off in all Malbecs this month!