Q & A: I Thought Malbec is from Argentina

Question from Bob: Hi! I'm confused. I thought Malbec is from Argentina but you said it's a Bordeaux variety. What's the story? 

Hi, Bob! Thanks for writing. When you look at the shelves of your local wine shop, it's completely understandable that you'd think Malbec is from Argentina, but it was imported to Argentina from France in the mid 1800s. And, then, it' wasn't until the mid 1990s that it really took off as the "it" wine from Argentina. 

Its origins are uncertain, but we know it's been in Southwest France since at least the 1700s and was the most widely-planted variety there until the 1950s. If you've ever had a bottle of the rustic Cahors (where it's called Cot) from southern France, it's at least 70% Malbec. There's also a small amount grown in the Loire Valley, where it's called Cot or Auxerrois.    

In Bordeaux it was used to give the wine weight and color, but the plantings have greatly declined over the past several decades mainly because it's difficult to get it ripe in that relatively cool climate. 

Virtually all wine grapes, worldwide, are of European origin and are members of the species Vitus Vinifera. And, Vinifera came to Europe via Georgia and Armenia. Wine is also made of native American varieties, but it has a tiny market niche. We seems to prefer these old-fashioned varieties that have been used for centuries.

But, no one would argue with you that when it comes to Malbec, Argentina is the immediate association. In fact, any number of producers in Cahors are known to be copying the "new world" style of Argentinean Malbec and ramping up marketing trying to get a piece of the Malbec action! 

Hope that helps. Cheers! Nancy

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