Grape of the Week: Malbec

Malbec_ucdavis

We’re almost finished with Bordeaux varieties! We’ll move on in a couple of weeks.

I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t Malbec from Argentina?” You’d certainly think so, these days, because Argentina grows more Malbec than anywhere else in the world. But, it probably came over from southwestern France in the mid 19th century. We don’t know how far back it goes in France, but it’s been known in southwestern France, including Bordeaux, since at least the 18th century.

Roots
We call it a Bordeaux variety because it’s been a traditional part of their red blends for a few hundred years. As it explodes in Argentina, it’s gradually disappearing in Bordeaux, mainly because of it’s tendency to “shatter” – not pollinate well – there. Here in Napa Valley, it’s still considered a player in putting together a Meritage or Bordeaux-style blend.

The real French home for Malbec, today, is Cahors, in the southwest. This is a very ancient winegrowing region but they’ve never been very good at PR. They’re working hard to turn that around and it won’t be long before you hear more and more about “The Black Wine of Cahors.”

TRIVIA! In Cahors this grape has multiple names: Auxerrois, Cot and – Malbec.

What to expect
It’s so popular, you tell me! You sure get a good bang for you buck, don’t you? It’s a very flavorful grape. The “black” reference is appropriate because it’s thick-skinned, with tons of pigment and a healthy dose of tannin too.

When I think of Malbec I think big aromatics and bigger flavors. And, it’s black and not only in terms of color. The aroma and flavor make me think of black berries, black currant, black plums… Of course, it depends upon where it’s grown. Maybe some licorice or tobacco tossed in there.  Most Argentinian Malbec is made in a “new-world style,” which means generously oaked so you can add vanilla, spice and toasty character to the description.

I expect Cahors will follow suit – make a new-world style – to dazzle the new-world markets.

Even though the tannin count is pretty high, somehow Malbec seems to go down easy. You’d more likely want to age Cahors made in the traditional style than Malbec from Argentina.

Good Eats
Substantial wine calls for substantial food, so throw a steak on the grill! The slow-cooked dishes we love this time of year – short ribs or a good, old-fashioned pot roast are great choices. The best cheese choices are the dry-aged ones – aged Gouda, aged Jack, Parmigiano Reggiano…

This is making me hungry! Cheers!

PS: Just noticed this tweet from Twitter buddy @vino101 on the most successful Argentine wines, so here ya go!

Send me your wine question    I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!

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