Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Malbec, one of the five varieties used in red Bordeaux, is thought to have originated in South West France, though in Cahors, the appellation it is most famous for today, the local name is Auxerrois, suggesting origins in Northern Burgundy. The grape is sensitive to frost, downy mildew, and rot, and has therefore come to reach its greatest potential in warm, sunny Mendoza, Argentina.

Cahors is required by law to have a minimum of 70% Malbec. This wine is sometimes rustic and very tannic, though a new generation of wine makers is blending in Merlot for a softer, fruitier style. The grape is widely used though in small amounts in Bordeaux, contributing inky color, a rounded texture, and a deep plummy character to the leaner and often more herbacious Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

Malbec is the principal variety in Mendoza, where it produces wines similar to what made California merlots so popular: supple, ripe tannins, cassis, and a hint of sweet oak on the finish.  The best in the country are arguably from Mendoza’s subzone of Lujan de Cuyo, known as the “Bordeaux of Argentina”, though current labeling laws encourage the use of the more recognizable “Mendoza.” Here, in addition to the characteristic plummy notes the wines exhibit anise and floral notes. 

As in other parts of the world, there is a large following for the international style – inky color, sweet, ripe fruit, high alcohol, and lavish oak-as these cookie cutter wines rate the high scores, and then are easy to sell. Flying winemaker Michel Rolland influenced many of the top wines of the country. Cutting edge producers are  providing Malbecs that taste of the grape and of the place, not of a trendy style.

Clos La Coutale Cahors (France)
Domaine du Theron Cahors (France)
Catena Adrianna Lot 3 Malbec, Tupungato-Mendoza (Argentina)
Felix Lavaque Finca de Altura Malbec, Cafayate Valley-Salta (Argentina)
Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Malbec, Mendoza (Argentina)
Sauras Malbec, San Patricio del Chanar, Neuquen-Patagonia (Argentina)

Best Value
Fabre Montmayou Malbec, Vistalba-Mendoza (Argentina)
Los Cardos Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo-Mendoza (Argentina)
Mas Malbec, Mendoza (Argentina)
Norton Lo Tengo Malbec, Mendoza (Argentina)
Quara Malbec, Cafayate Valley-Salta (Argentina)
Trapiche Malbec, Mendoza (Argentina)

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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