|One of the traditional "Bordeaux
varietals", Malbec has characteristics that fall
somewhere between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. A midseason
ripener, it can bring very deep color, ample tannin, and
a particular plum-like flavor component to add complexity
to claret blends.
is known in much of France as Côt, and, in Cahors,
also as Auxerrois. There are in fact hundreds of local
synonyms, since Malbec at one time was widely planted
all over the country. Sensitivity to frost and proclivity
to shatter or coulure, is the primary reason Malbec
has become a decreasing factor in most of France. Although
plantings in the Medoc have decreased by over two-thirds
since the mid-twentieth century, Malbec is now the dominant
red varietal in the Cahors area. The Appellation Controlée
regulations for Cahors require a minimum content of
Malbec truly comes into its own
in Argentina, where it is the major red varietal planted.
Much of the Malbec vines there were transplanted from
Europe prior to the outbreak of phylloxera and most
is therefore ungrafted, on its own roots. Sadly, over
the years, the bug has infested Argentina, too, and
vineyards are being replanted on resistant rootstock.
Argentines often spell it "Malbeck"
and make wines from it that are similar in flavor to
those made in Europe, but with softer, lusher structure,
more like New World Merlot. Another difference: where
French examples are usually considered short-lived,
Argentine Malbecs seem to age fairly well.
Malbec is also planted in Chile,
and there's relatively little and recent acreage in
California and Australia. It is usually blended with
other red varietals in these countries.
Successful Argentine Malbec growers
claim that, in order to develop full maturity and distinction,
Malbec needs "hang time" even after sugar
levels indicate ripeness. Otherwise, immature Malbec
can be very "green" tasting, without its characteristic
notes of plum and anise.