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Cahors: The Truth and Roots of Malbec Wine

French Malbec wines grew in France before Argentina.

Many people love Malbec red wine, both for its flavor and for its price. 

Although Malbec is now associated with Argentina, it first grew in France.  Remember, France is an Old World grape growing country and Argentinia is New World. This means that France was growing wine grapes back when wine was first being made, whereas Argentina is new to the art of wine making. 

The reason why you may not know this is two-fold. First, only Cahors in France now grows Malbec grapes and, second, France puts the location of the wine - not the grape - on the label. So, unless you know that Cahors grows Malbec, you may not know that it is, in fact, a Malbec wine. Below are some examples of Cahors Malbec wines.

Pigmentum by George Vigouroux, Cahors France, 2011

It is a deep purpley red and smells of cooked red fruits, the same smell as when someone is baking a pie or making jam with a variety of red fruits. The flavor is a blend of fruits without being a “fruit bomb," the tannin keeps the wine structured. 

During the finish, I tasted a touch of plum and, overall, this wine was typical of Malbec to me. People like Malbec because it is “smooth” or has no “bite," and this wine matches that description. I enjoyed it by itself and with sharp cheddar cheese.

Clos Triguedina, Cahors France, 2008

A great garnet purpley-red color smelling slightly metallic and funky, this Malbec has tannin that will affect your inner lip and gums, but will not attack your whole mouth. Typical of a French wine, the fruitiness is balanced with complexity and depth. This wine is nothing like Argentinian Malbecs because it doesn’t have the smooth “goes down easy” feeling you get from Argentina, nor the fruitiness. It is a wine designed for heavy and fatty winter meals that keep you going like steak or something make with dark chocolate or cheese.

Gouleyant, Cahors France, 2010

This wine has one of the busiest labels I’ve ever seen, but at least it tells you it is a Malbec. The description is in French, so if you don’t read French, the label indicates it wants to give you fruitiness in the flavor, liveliness, youth and elegance. It smelled of cooked fruit and darker colored fruits and had the trademark dark purple-red color of Malbec. Full of dark fruit flavors such as cassis, the body and flavor are not so overwhelming that you don’t want more. Flavorful meats such as lamb with rich sides like yams would go well with this wine. Foregoing the Argentinian fruitiness, you taste a rich complexity in this wine.

Clos Siguier, Cahors France, 2009

The grapes for this wine were grown on 80-year-old vines and is 100 percent Malbec. The grapes are hand-picked and sustainably grown. Foregoing the overpowering heaviness of other French Malbec wines, this wine is smooth and elegant. There is no overpowering fruitiness, but rather a great balance in this wine. This wine will let you know that if you think you know all the good sides of Malbec, you don’t yet. Old, aged cheese, creamy foods, chocolate and other rich foods pair well with this wine. As usual, you will see deep purple-red colors in this wine. It was my second-favorite of he Cahors wines.

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Diana Combs March 02, 2013 at 05:28 AM
Thank you for your comment. For those potentially confused about terminology, every wine master that I have come across refers to New World wines are those wines produced outside the traditional wine-growing areas of Europe and the Middle East, in particular from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. Christopher Columbus is never mentioned in this context. The perception is that drinkable and marketable wine was made in Europe first. If it helps, South Africa had nothing to do with Christopher Columbus, nor did Australia.
Diana Combs March 02, 2013 at 06:24 AM
Richard, every store has different prices. The best way to find prices is to go to: www.winesearcher.com I would never urge you to buy any wine, the decision is up to you. Have a good weekend.
Stephen Reiss, PhD, CWE March 05, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Malbec does not only come from Cahors. It is one of the Carmenet grapes, those allowed in the blend of Bordeaux wines. It has fallen out of favor in Bordeaux, but is still planted and used. Cahors and Argentina are not comparable. The microclimate of Cahors is very different than Argentina, which is a dry high altitude desert blocked from the ocean by giant mountains. Add this to several generations of vines being selected for completely different traits (not to mention the large number of Malbec vines on their native roots) and you end up with a grape and place that is nothing like Cahors. Cahors has been spending a lot of money to convince people that they are the original Malbec and should share in some of the popularity, and while Cahors deserves to be explored, it wines only have the name of the grape in common, none of the flavor profile of the Argentina versions.
Diana Combs March 05, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Hi, thank you for your comment. I agree that they don't taste the same ... many times wines produced first in France do not taste the same in the New World. My main goal with this article is to inform people that Malbec is, and has been, grown in France. The nature of a blog post limits the amount of information that can be provided, especially flavor comparisons. I hope you visit my website, www.writingonthevine.com. I would love for you to lead a discussion on Cabernet Sauvignon!
Stephen Reiss, PhD, CWE March 05, 2013 at 05:04 PM
I agree with Thomas (no surprise since we are both Expats in Argentina). Cahors for generations was known as The Black Wine. It was heavily tannic, and while your notes show wines that are darker in flavor than most (but far from all) Argentina Malbecs, it is an indication that Cahors has been changing their style to compete more directly with Argentina. There is also the fact that Cahors played up Malbec so much at VinExpo 2009. Cahors has its own identity, as it should but that they are looking to cash in on the (now fading?) popularity of Malbec, can not be in doubt.

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