| Nik Darlington

Show me the Malbec!

We associate the Malbec grape first and foremost these days with Argentina, but we shouldn't forget that Malbec is grown in plenty of other places around the world, not least its French homeland.

The grape's historic name is Cot and it originated in Cahors in south-west France, from where it spread to Bordeaux (where it is variously called Malbec, Lutkens, Mancin, Pressac and Prunelat), the Loire Valley (where it's called Côt, Cahors and Coq Rouge), a few other regions in France and then around the world.

Its presence in France was disastrously dented by the phylloxera plague in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In somewhere like Bordeaux it remains a shadow of its former self, but has revived somewhat in and around its Quercy homeland.

French agronomist Michel Pouget introduced Malbeck (as it was spelt then) to Argentina in 1868 and now it is second only to the bulk-wine grape Cereza in terms of plantings. 

Argentine Malbec differs from the Malbec grown in Cahors insofar as the grapes are smaller and result in wines of a slightly deeper colour and fruitier taste - but that's not to say French Malbec is light, because after all the wines of Cahors have traditionally been referred to as "Black Wines", so rich and dense they were.

We've got a wide selection of styles at Pip, whether varietal Malbec or interesting blends.

For the real McCoy, try Château Combel-la-Serre Le Pur Fruit du Causse, a richly flavoured organic red from Cahors that remains as light on its feet as Serge Blanco in full flow. Rugby-mad winemaker Julien Ilbert would approve of such a description! It's unoaked and just 12.5% alcohol but doesn't lack in anything else.

From Argentina, we have two very different wines by Alfredo Merlo, MAAL Rebelión and MAAL Biolento. MAAL stands for Malbec As Alfredo Likes, so these aren't big, oaky, fruit bombs but they are recognisably Argentine. Rebelión is the more fruit-forward of the two, while Biolento brings out that rich gamey character you get in Mendoza.

Then a couple of fascinating blends from Argentina and Australia, of all places. Altos las Homigas is already very popular with several of you and for good reason! This is a very soft, medium-bodied blend of Malbec, Bonarda (widely planted in Argentina, lighter and red-fruited) and white grape Semillon, which gives an aromatic lift.

Finally, Koerner The Clare is from the Clare Valley and pays homage to old-school Bordeaux blends, in which Malbec used to feature quite highly: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Malbec, 13% Cabernet Franc and a rogue 12% Grenache.

Tags: History, Malbec


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