intense wine, dark color, juicy fruit notes with violet
meat, can stand up to Mexican spice, Italian tomato based
Catena Zapata 2005 Argentino (Mendoza); Bodega Catena
Zapata 2005 Nicasia Vineyard (Mendoza)
Auxerrois or Cot Noir in Cahors, called Malbec
in Bordeaux, and Pressac in other places, 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 where it was mixed
with Merlot and Tannat to make dark, full-bodied wines, and
more recently has been made into 100% Malbec varietal wines.
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 Cot was the variety's original
name and that it probably originated in northern Burgundy.
Despite a similar name, the grape Malbec argente is
not Malbec, but rather a variety of the southwestern French
grape Abouriou. Due
to the similarities in synonyms, Malbec has also been confused
with Auxerrois blanc, which is an entirely different variety.
grape is a thin-skinned grape and needs more sun and heat
than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to mature.
It ripens mid-season and can bring very deep color, ample
tannin, and a particular plum-like flavor component to add
complexity to claret blends. Sometimes, especially in its
traditional growing regions, it is not trellised and cultivated
as bush vines (the goblet system). Here it is sometimes kept
to a relatively low yield of about 6 tons per hectare.
The wines are rich, dark and juicy.
As a varietal,
Malbec creates a rather inky red (or violet), intense wine,
so it is also commonly used in blends, such as with Merlot
and Cabernet Sauvignon
to create the red French Bordeaux claret blend. The grape
is blended with Cabernet Franc
and Gamay in some regions such as the Loire Valley. Other
wine regions use the grape to produce Bordeaux-style blends.
The varietal is sensitive to frost and has a proclivity to
shatter or coulure.
is very susceptible to various grape diseases and viticultural
hazards-most notably frost, coulure, downey mildew and rot
but the development of new clones and vineyard management
techniques have helped control some of these potential problems.
When it is not afflicted with these various ailments, particularly
coulure, it does have the potential to produce high yields.
Too high a yield, as was the circumstance in Argentina until
recently with their heavy use of flood irrigation, the wines
become more simplistic and lacking in flavor. Malbec seems
to be able to produce well in a variety of soil types but
in the limestone based soils of Cahors it seems to produce
its most dark and tannic manifestation.
There are distinct ampelographical differences in the clones
of Malbec found in France and in Argentina, with Argentine
Malbec tending to have smaller berries.
is the dominant red varietal in Cahors where the Appellation
ControlÃ©e regulations for Cahors require a minimum content
of 70%. Introduced
to Argentina by French agricultural engineer Michel Pouget
in 1868, Malbec is widely planted in Argentina producing a
softer, less tannic-driven variety than the wines of Cahors.
There were once 50,000 hectares planted with Malbec in Argentina;
now there are 25,000 hectares in Mendoza in addition to production
in La Rioja, Salta, San Juan, Catamarca and Buenos Aires.
Chile has about 6,000 hectares planted, France 5,300 hectares
and in the cooler regions of California just 45 hectares.
In California the grape is used to make Meritage. Malbec is also
grown in Washington State, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa,
British Columbia, the Long Island AVA of New York, Oregon,
southern Bolivia, northeastern Italy and recently in Texas
and southern Ontario, and in the Baja California region of
one point Malbec was grown in 30 different departments
of France, a legacy that is still present in the abundance
of local synonyms for the variety which easily surpass
1000 names. However, in recent times, the popularity
of the variety has been steadily declining with a 2000
census reporting only 15,000 acres (6,100 hectares)
of the vine mostly consigned to the southwestern part
of the country. Its stronghold remains Cahors where
Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) regulations stipulates
that Malbec must compose at least 70% of the blend,
with Merlot and Tannat rounding out the remaining percentage.
Outside of Cahors, Malbec is still found in small amounts
as a permitted variety in the AOCs of Bergerac, Buzet,
Côtes de Duras, Côtes du Marmandais, Fronton and Pécharmant.
It is also permitted in the Vin Délimité de Qualité
Supérieure (VDQS) of Côtes du Brulhois. In the Midi
region of the Languedoc, it is permitted (but rarely
grown) in the AOC regions of Cabardès and Côtes de Malepère.
There is a small amount of Malbec grown in the middle
Loire Valley and permitted in the AOCs of Anjou, Coteaux
du Loir, Touraine and the sparkling wine AOC of Saumur
where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay.
But as elsewhere in France, Malbec is losing acreage
other varieties-most notably Cabernet Franc in the Loire.
grape was historically a major planting in Bordeaux,
providing color and fruit to the blend, but in the 20th
century started to lose ground to Merlot and Cabernet
Franc due, in part, to its sensitivities to so many
different vine ailments (coulure, downy mildew, frost).
The severe 1956 frost wiped out a significant portion
of Malbec vines in Bordeaux, allowing many growers a
chance to start anew with different varieties. By 1968
plantings in the Libournais was down to 12,100 acres
(4,900 hectares) and fell further to 3,460 acres (1,400
hectares) by 2000. While Malbec has since become a popular
component of New World meritages or Bordeaux
blends, and it is still a permitted variety in all major
wine regions of Bordeaux, its presence in Bordeaux is
as a distinctly minor variety. Only the regions of the
Cotes-de-Bourg, Blaye and Entre-Deux-Mers have any significant
plantings in Bordeaux.
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
its focus to premium wine production for export. As the Argentine
wine industry 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 2003 there were over 50,000 acres (20,000
hectares) of Malbec in Argentina.
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 immigrants 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 aging
potential similar to their French counterparts.
The Mendoza region is the leading producer of Malbec in Argentina
with plantings found throughout the country in places such
as La Rioja, Salta, San Juan, Catamarca and Buenos Aires.
to Prohibition in the United States, Malbec was a significant
variety in California used mainly for blended bulk wine production.
After Prohibition, the grape was a minor variety until it
experienced a surge of interest as a component of "Meritage"
Bordeaux-style blends in the mid 1990s. Between 1995 and 2003,
plantings of Malbec in California increased from 1000 acres
(250 hectares) to more than 7000 acres (2,830 hectares). While
the appearance of Californian varietal Malbec is increasing,
the grape is still most widely used for blending.
In California, the American Viticultural Areas (AVA) with
the most plantings of Malbec include Napa Valley, Alexander
Valley, Paso Robles and Sonoma Valley.
regions in California with some plantings of Malbec include
Atlas Peak, Carmel Valley, Los Carneros, Ramona Valley, Central
Coast, Red Hills Lake County, Chalk Hill, Clear Lake, Diamond
Mountain District, Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley,
Rutherford, El Dorado, San Lucas, Santa Clara Valley, Santa
Cruz Mountains, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Maria Valley,
Santa Ynez Valley, Howell Mountain, Sierra Foothills, Knights
Valley, Spring Mountain District, St. Helena, Lodi, Stags
Leap District, Madera, Suisun Valley, Temecula Valley, Monterey,
Mount Veeder, North Coast, Oak Knoll District, Yorkville Highlands,
Oakville, Paicines, Clements Hills, Fair Play, Willow Creek,
North Yuba, and Yountville.
Hills Winery planted the first vines of Malbec planted in
Washington state in the late 1990s in their Windrow vineyard
in the Walla Walla Valley. Since the turn of the 21st century,
several wineries have been experimenting with 100% varietal
Malbec as well as using the variety in Meritage blends.
In Washington State it is grown predominately in the Columbia
Valley and the sub-AVAs of Walla Walla Valley, Rattlesnake
Hills, Red Mountain, Wahluke Slope, Horse Heaven Hills and
AVAs in the United States producing Malbec include the New
York appellations of North Fork of Long Island and Finger
Lakes; the Oregon appellations of Applegate Valley, Rogue
Valley, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley and Willamette Valley;
the Idaho appellation of the Snake River Valley; the Texas
appellations of Texas High Plains and Texas Hill Country;
the Virginia appellations of Monticello and North Fork of
Roanoke; the North Carolina appellation of the Yadkin Valley;
the Michigan appellations of the Old Mission Peninsula and
Leelanau Peninsula; the New Jersey appellation of the Outer
Coastal Plain and the Colorado appellation of the Grand Valley.
Additionally there are some plantings in Missouri and Georgia
outside of federally delineated appellations.
of Malbec in Argentina led some producers in neighboring Chile
to try their hand at the varietal. Grown throughout the Central
Valley, Chilean Malbec tends to be more tannic than its Argentine
counterpart and is used primarily in Bordeaux-style blends.
The grapevine was introduced to Australia in the 19th century
and was mostly a bulk wine producing grape. The particular
clones planted in Australia were of poor quality and highly
susceptible to coulure, frost and downy mildew. By the mid
to late 20th century, many acres of Malbec were uprooted and
planted with different varieties. By 2000, there were slightly
over 1,235 acres (500 acres), with the Clare Valley having
the most significant amount. As newer clones become available,
plantings of Malbec in Australia have increased slightly.
regions with some plantings of Malbec include north Italy,
New Zealand, South Africa, the Canadian regions of British
Columbia and Ontario, Bolivia and Mexico, and Southern Indiana.
Jancis Robinson describes the French style of Malbec common
in the Libournais (Bordeaux region) as a "rustic" version
of Merlot, softer in tannins and lower in acidity with blackberry
fruit in its youth. The Malbec of the Cahors region is much
more tannic with more phenolic compounds that contribute to
its dark color. Oz
Clarke describes Cahors' Malbec as dark purple in color with
aromas of damsons, tobacco and raisin. In Argentina, Malbec
becomes softer with a plusher texture and riper tannins. The
wines tend to have juicy fruit notes with violet aromas. In
very warm regions of Argentina, Chile & Australia, the
acidity of the wine may be too low which can cause a wine
to taste flabby and weak. Malbec grown
in Washington state tends to be characterized by dark fruit
notes and herbal aromas.
Science of Wine Aroma
the Acids in Wine
(Tannins) in Wine
The Basic Wine Pairing Rules
Science of Food and Wine
a Wine Sommelier