Malbec is a grape that has exploded in popularity the past few years, and that is all thanks to Argentina. Bringing it back from relative obscurity, it has flourished in the high Andes mountains, producing powerful and approachable wines. But, we can trace its history back to a little village in the south west of France.
Cahors and French Malbec
Malbec, known in France under many other names (including Cot and Auxerrois) is actually believed to originate in northern Burgundy. Although this is just a theory, its main synonym in France (Auxerrois) suggests this could be possible, as this region is right beside Chablis.
In any case, its history lies in Cahors, and the slightly further north Bordeaux. Before phylloxera hit in the late 19th century, Malbec was one of the top grapes of red Bordeaux blends. But, after phylloxera had hit and winemakers were replanting, it was specifically excluded due to its sensitivity to a host of vine diseases and pests. Nowadays, Bordeaux has a depressingly small amount of Malbec planted, mostly on the right bank, yet it is still technically allowed along with several other uncommon grapes (Carmenere, Petit Verdot).
We have Argentina to thank for Malbec’s wave of success and popularity, quickly making it a consumer favourite and go to BBQ wine for summer time. In fact, if it wasn’t for Argentina, Cahors and Malbec in France would probably be only known to the thirstiest of wine geeks, and rarely seen or drank by us normal people.
Winemaking in Argentina dates back to when Catholic priests emigrated in the 16th century, bringing their need of sacramental wine and knowledge of the trade with them. Originally, focus was on quantity, but in the last two decades Argentina has made huge strides in quality and diversity, being home to several signature wines, including those from Torrontés and Malbec grapes.
The grape, now better understood and beloved the world over, is being cultivated successfully in both the Old World and the New. It’s a very popular variety with many of our regulars, and so we’re bringing in exciting new bottles all the time.