Malbec is a dark-skinned grape that is most associated with the high-altitude (up to 3,000 metres!), desert vineyards of Argentina’s Mendoza region. The variety is in fact originally from southwest France, where it is still widely cultivated today, especially in Cahors. It has many synonyms, which might have passed you by – like Côt, Pressac and Auxerrois to name a few – and was at one time grown in over thirty different regions in France each using a different name for the grape.
In France, popularity declined due to the difficulties in cultivation, including Malbec’s sensitivity towards coulure, downy mildew and rot and the Gallic expression of the grape can sometimes be too overly rustic, tough and taciturn (sorry, France!) but there are some beautifully powerful and savoury examples to be found grown on the limestone soils of Cahors.
Three-quarters of the world’s Malbec lives in Argentina, where it is the country’s most-planted grape. The South American version is unmistakably joyous: inky, high in alcohol, with brash, fruit-driven flavours, voluptuous body and velvety-smooth tannins.
Image: Hand-picked Malbec grapes from Mosquita Muerta vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina; © Mosquita Muerta Wines.