Sunday, 2 February 2014

Malbec vs Malbec

If Malbec was an human being, it would probably be considered as a bipolar personality. Otherwise, how else would you describe a grape that has different characters depending on the continent it's growing in?

Argentine Malbec reached the public's radar in the 80's-90's thanks to its charming character, juicy fruit and its plush, velvety texture. A type of wine difficult to dislike. It easily became fashionable, making Mendoza's fortune as a wine region.  And since then anyone been asked about Malbec would think about Argentina probably also because 70% of it is cultivated there.

But the truth is that the grape is actually originating from France, more precisely from the South West of the country and was introduced in Argentina only in the XIX century. Cahors, its home town, is a beautiful medieval city in the Lot region surrounded by vineyards but what is really interesting is that the wines produced here are quite different and much less fashionable from the South American ones, so well known by most consumers.

Much sturdier than its Argentinian brother, the 'black wine' of Cahors has generally a more difficult character, a rustic feel, less generous fruitiness, spiciness and harsher tannins that need a bit of ageing.

Not a great variety of Cahors Malbec make it to international market so, during my 2 weeks tour of South of France, I made a bit of research on my own. I was not looking  for any specific winery nor I was prepared for a very professional assessment. I just chose quite randomly from the supermarkets' shelves inspired by the label or by the price.

All the wines I have tasted were of surprisingly good quality and extremely fairly priced. I didn't find them that austere but they certainly had exuberant tannins and needed a bit of food (which of course was not missing) to express at their best.

I can reconfirm that these wines were extremely different in style from the Argentine Malbec (one of my favourites) I had when I came back home .
What I found interesting (and the reason that inspired me in writing this post) is the individual characters this grape can show and how the combination of soil, climate, human techniques (i.e. irrigation or not) and local traditions can produce such unusual wines from it.

I'd like to finish saying that I don't think there is a style that is better than the other, it is just a matter of taste. Always drink whatever you like!