Definitions

Malbec

Malbec

Malbec is a variety of grape used in making red wine. The grapes tend to have an inky dark colour and robust tannins. Long known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine, the French plantations of Malbec are now found primarily in Cahors in the South West France region. It is increasingly celebrated as an Argentine varietal wine. It is also grown in Chile, southern Bolivia, Australia, on Long Island, New York, in the cooler regions of California, and in Washington.

Malbec is named after the Hungarian peasant who first introduced it to France.

Description

The Malbec grape is a thin-skinned grape and needs more sun and heat than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to mature. It ripens mid-season and can bring very deep color, ample tannin, and a particular plum-like flavor component to add complexity to claret blends. Sometimes, especially in its traditional growing regions, it is not trellised and cultivated as bush vines (the goblet system). Here it is sometimes kept to a relatively low yield of about 6 tons per hectare. The wines are rich, dark and juicy. As a varietal it creates a rather inky red (or violet), intense wine, so it is also commonly used in blends, such as with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create the renowned red French Bordeaux "claret" blend. Other wine regions use the grape to produce Bordeaux-style blends. The grape needs a high differential between day and evening temperatures, with a minimum fluctuation of 27 degrees Fahrenheit (15 °C) in a day. The varietal is sensitive to frost and has a proclivity to shatter or coulure. The grape is blended with Cabernet Franc and Gamay in some regions such as the Loire Valley.

Called Auxerrois or Cot Noir in Cahors, called Malbec in Bordeaux, and Pressac in other places, the grape became less popular in Bordeaux after 1956 when frost killed off 75% of the crop. Despite Cahors being hit by the same frost, which devastated the vineyards, Malbec was replanted and continued to be popular in that area where it was mixed with Merlot and Tannat to make dark, full-bodied wines, and more recently has been made into 100% Malbec wines there. Despite a similar name, the grape Malbec argenté is not Malbec, but rather the southwestern France grape Abouriou. The grape is also confused with Auxerrois blanc, which is an entirely different variety.

In the early 1990s there was a massive resurgence in the consumption of red wine, based on the idea that they were good for your health. Shiraz was one of the main beneficiaries. Recent research indicates that the health benefits of red wine drinking depends on the presence of certain polyphenols called oligomeric procyandins (OPS). Malbec and Tannat seem to be the varieties with the most OPS.

Regions

Malbec is the dominant red varietal in Cahors where the Appellation Controlée regulations for Cahors require a minimum content of 70%.

Introduced to Argentina by French agricultural engineer Michel Pouget in 1868, Malbec is widely planted in Argentina producing a softer, less tannic-driven variety than the wines of Cahors. The best examples of these wines come from the Argentine region of Mendoza. In Argentina, where Malbec seems to have found a natural home, the grape is used to produce very popular varietal wines. It is now thought that the variety known as Fer in that country is a clone. Although the grape is currently Argentina's premier grape, wine makers tried to remove it from the vineyard. In the 1980s Argentina initiated a "vine pull" program until there were only 10,000 acres (4000 ha) of the grape left. In the 1990s, Malbec's potential and the increase of wine exports from South America saved the grape.

There were once 50,000 hectares planted with Malbec in Argentina; now there are 25,000 hectares in Mendoza in addition to production in La Rioja, Salta, San Juan, Catamarca and Buenos Aires. Chile has about 6,000 hectares planted, France 5,300 hectares and California just 45 hectares. In California the grape is used to make Meritage. Malbec is also grown in Washington State, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, British Columbia, southern Bolivia, and northeastern Italy.

Synonyms

Agreste, Auxerrois, Auxerrois De Laquenexy, Auxerrois Des Moines De Picpus, Auxerrois Du Mans, Balouzat, Beran, Blanc De Kienzheim, Cahors, Calarin, Cauli, Costa Rosa, Cot A Queue Verte, Cotes Rouges, Doux Noir, Estrangey, Gourdaux, Grelot De Tours, Grifforin, Guillan, Hourcat, Jacobain, Luckens, Magret, Malbec, Malbek, Medoc Noir, Mouranne, Navarien, Negre De Prechac, Negrera, Noir De Chartres, Noir De Pressac, Noir Doux, Nyar De Presak, Parde, Perigord, Pied De Perdrix, Pied Noir, Pied Rouge, Pied Rouget, Piperdy, Plant D'Arles, Plant De Meraou, Plant Du Roi, Prechat, Pressac, Prunieral, Quercy, Queue Rouge, Quille De Coy, Romieu, Teinturin, Terranis, Vesparo, Côt, Plant du Lot.

See also

External links

References

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