Malbec has had a truly interesting, and quite long, history. Due to the extreme popularity it has found in Argentina, many believe it is a native grape of South America. However, it is actually a French varietal, and a Bordeaux one at that! It is actually one of the five major Bordeaux grapes allowed in the blends made there, along with: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Today, I want to walk you through a brief history of Malbec and why it has become the flagship grape of South America.
Originating in France, Malbec actually goes by many names there: Côt, Cahors, Auxxerois and Gaillac. Most notable of those alternative names is Cahors, an actual wine growing region in France, where is it believed to have started its journey. At a time, Malbec was extremely popular in France, thus the many synonyms for it that exist in the French language. However, after the devastating frosts that occurred in 1956, with Phylloxera preceding at the turn of the century, many of the vines in France were ripped up and replanted in favor of more fashionable varietals. While it is still used in blends, it is extremely rare to see a single varietal Malbec form France anymore.
A life changing moment came for Malbec in 1868 when a French professor brought Malbec, along with other Bordeaux varietals Cabernet and Merlot, to Argentina. It was here, in a warm dry climate, that Malbec truly found its home and was able to thrive and showcase its best assets. It is also here, and in Chile, where Malbec is grown in the mountains in what are sometimes called “elevated desserts”. These are plateaus in the mountain ranges where Malbec is planted and shows more extracted fruit qualities that is indicative of the harsh climates and elevation.
Preferring very dry, hot climates and clay-limestone soils, Malbec found its true home in Argentina but is also planted in many other countries such as Australia, Italy and Spain to name a few. Malbec has several distinct characteristics as well. The clusters have large berries of thin-skinned grapes and in Argentina and Chile, due to the warmer climates, the grape is able to ripen fully and has softer tannins. Aromas from the Malbec grape can include coffee, plum, cherry, raspberry and chocolate. While the palate introduces flavors such as raisins, dried fruits and balsamic.
Please join us on Tuesday as we taste several wines from Susana Balboa, Argentina’s Queen of Malbec! It is going to be a great evening tasting the wines of this amazing pioneer!