The Origin of Malbec

January 24, 2013
by Bradley | Anuva Wines.

Malbec[1]Malbec is originally from France where legend has it, it was originally sourced and planted by a Hungarian peasant. Malbec has also accrued the names; ‘Cot Noir’ in Cahors or ‘The black grape of Cahors’, Auxerrios in Alsace, whilst maintaining the name ‘Malbec’ only in Bordeaux. Malbec also has a huge variety of different synonyms dependent on the region grown in New Zealand, Australia and California, for instance; Pressac, Meritage, Pied Rouge or Jacobain.

There are a few arguments as to how Malbec acquired it’s name; firstly as Malbec literally translates as ‘Bad Mouth or Beak’, due to the ill-tasting result from original seasons of the Malbec grape in France, however French viticulturists maintain it stems from a Burgundy grape known as ‘Cot’ (Cot Noir). Another said origin is from a man named ‘Malbeck’ who first produced the grape in France.

Regardless of the unstable footing Malbec had in France, since Michel Pouget brought Malbec over to Argentina in 1852 it has become a sensation. Due to the thin-skinned nature of the Malbec grape, it needed the virtues we have in Argentina to reach it’s full potential; in Mendoza, desert-like 330 days of sun increasing fruit-forward flavors, cool nights to balance the natural acidities in the wine, Andes mountain irrigation and altitude, strong winds allowing for reduced pesticide use and virtually free of vine disease and mold. In France their volatile season differential made Malbec particularly susceptible to decay, therefore inevitably the Malbec vines in France where hit hard firstly by an outbreak of phylloxera (an insect that attacks vines from the root) in the 1860s and then a huge frost in 1956 where over 75% of the crop was wiped out. It was replanted in the 1940s and mostly in Cahors, where today it is used predominantly in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, not the 100% varietal Malbec that has been established in Argentina.

Although Malbec is still very much present in the French wine culture, it has been adopted by the Argentines as their flag-ship red grape and now boasts over 76,500 acres of the vine (where in France only 15,000 remains). Brought to the fore-front of everyone’s mouths, both verbally and physically by the accredited Argentine winemaker, Nicolas Catena Zapata, who planted his first vineyards in Tupungato at 5000 feet and was celebrated for his achievements with Malbec in the 2009 Decanter Magazine as the ‘Winemaker of the Year’. Full article