Wine Business Monthly
Two New International Events Dedicated to the Malbec Grape
Editor’s Note: The first International Malbec Winegrowing Symposium was hosted last November 27 by the vintners of the Côtes de Bourg appellation situated on Bordeaux’s right bank. At the same venue, the Challenge International du Vin, specializing in wine contests, launched its first International Malbec Wine Competition. The event drew 150 contestants from 10 growing regions worldwide.
The Malbec grape variety is thought to be originally from Southwest France where it is still found today, notably in the area of Cahors, north of Toulouse. The Bordeaux appellation with the highest percentage of Malbec under vine is Côtes de Bourg where the grape is continuing its expansion. In recent years, Malbec has, of course, been largely planted in Argentina, which has become its chief area of production, and it is gradually being introduced into parts of Chile, California and South Africa.
Malbec Grape Variety
In the case of AOC Cahors, representing 10,900 acres, around 80 percent of the area under vine is currently planted to Malbec. Indeed, local vintners have decided that a wine must contain at least 70 percent of the grape variety in order for it to be marketed under the Cahors appellation. The other varieties authorized within the blend are Merlot and Tannat. Cahors is pretty much the place where the grape first originated so it benefits from a microclimate still offering suitable growing conditions. (…)
(…)The vintners of Cahors have established a range of wine styles catering to different price brackets. The three categories—round and structured, full-bodied and full-flavored, intense and complex—are achieved using different extraction techniques.(...)
Malbec Wine Competition
Held at the same time in the town of Bourg, the first International Malbec Wine Competition awarded 30 percent of the participating wines out of a selection of 150 samples. The winegrowing region with the most medals was Cahors with 22 winners, followed by Chile and Argentina with respectively 10 and five medals.
The Northern Hemisphere Grand Prize went to AOC Cahors 2007 Château du Cedre GC whereas the Southern Hemisphere Grand Prize was split between to two wines: Valle de la Colchagua Malbec Single Vineyard San Carlos 2005 from Chile and Mendoza Argentina. This new competition will be an annual event every November in the same location.
Back in the 13th century, Malbec was the toast of the town
« Back in the 13th century, Malbec was the toast of the town. It was the grape variety of choice for royal households, Papal courts and the landed classes who enjoyed quenching their thirst on the « black » wine. (…) In Cahors, however, it produced a deep, tannic purple-black wine that can be unapproachable in youth, but with time produces wines deep with flavors such as black cherry and ripe fruit.
It was through producers such as Château du Cédre in Cahors that I was first introduced to its charms. Paired with the local food, duck breast or foie gras and a large slice of bread, it makes for a wonderful winter glass of wine ».
Malbec’s Ancestral Home - Cahors clings to tradition while it steps into the future
Though Argentinean Malbec may seem like an overnight sensation, the grape has another home, one with a long history. In France, Malbec carries on a tradition of wine production that dates back hundreds of years. (…)
While Argentina’s Malbecs burst with vivid fruit and intensity, the red wines of Cahors rumble along with tannic purpose. There are few cases where so stark a distinction can be drawn between New World and Old World wines made from the same grape. Cahors’ show more austerity, with a pronounced iron and mineral profile and occasional notes of hot stones and tar. The differences stem from many causes: terroir, weather and temperament. (…)
The pressure of tradition is reinforced by inflexible AOC rules, such as Cahors’ inability to irrigate its vines. Climate also plays a role: Argentina enjoys more sun, and a drier, longer growing season that results in riper grapes.
“The difference is the weather, more than just terroir,” says Pascal Verhaeghe, 42, whose Château du Cèdre produces about 8,000 cases of Cahors each year. “In Cahors it is difficult to have mature seeds [which affect the ripeness of the tannins] but in Argentina, the seeds are too mature.”
Verhaeghe’s comments echo with the influence of a European palate, one likely to prefer the structured profile of a Cahors to the opulence of an Argentinean Malbec. It is not surprising then that much of Cahors’ production is consumed in Canada, Germany, Britain and Japan, as opposed to the United States.
Embrace the black wine of Cahors
It’s fun tasting wines from grapes grown in their birthplace. For international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, this usually leads to France. So does one other fascinating immigrant story – Malbec.
Even though we credit Argentina for the popularity and worldwide fame of Malbec, which took to its adopted homeland like bees to honey, the grape’s birthplace is a small vineyard area in Southwestern France named Cahors. Dubbed “the black wine of France” for its color and history, locally Malbec is known as “Cot” or “Auxerrois”. (The French don’t like to simplify things when it comes to wine.)
There are some pure Malbecs made in Cahors, although usually, as is the French way, the wines are blends of Malbec, Tannat and Merlot to add softness and flavor to this rustic terroir. (…)
That is, after all, Malbec’s native land. It’s like drinking history.