Bonjour, mes amies! Care to take a ride with me in the Cahors car on the Malbec train? Our first stop is France, then we’re taking a quick side-trip to Argentina. Beep beep! All aboard!
The French Winophiles is a group of bloggers who love French wine. Each month, we pick a theme, any member can write about it on their blog and then we go bananas on Twitter about it on the third Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. CST. Sometimes we get samples, sometimes we don’t. This month we were on our own with French Malbec from a little pocket of land called Cahors (pronounced “Kah-or”).
So, Malbec — everyone thinks of Argentina. And yes, Argentina makes some lovely Malbec — good value, good quality, great everyday, hearty red wine. But Malbec did not originate there. Once upon a time, in like, 50 BC (so effing long ago), the Romans were swarming all over what’s now France, guzzling the “black wine” of Cahors — which is Malbec, called “black wine” for the most obvious reason – the grapes are inky black and so is the resulting wine. Everyone was drinking it, from England to Russia. Then: disaster hit! The phylloxera infestation of 1883 descended on Cahors. Phylloxera is an evil aphid bug that has the power to positively wreck a vineyard in no time flat and there’s no stopping it. Zut alors! (Oh, how I love saying that.)
After a while, the vineyards of Cahors bounced back and the “black wine of Cahors” once again ruled the land. Except watch out – here comes 1956 and a big blast of frost wiped out nearly everything. Balls! Well, stand back, because no one was giving up that easily — vineyards were replanted with more Malbec than ever and finally in 1971, the area became its own AOC – or appellation d’origine côntrollée.
Malbec from Cahors is not the most prevalent wine at most stores, but if you find it, get it! Great bottlings can be had for $15-$25. And like so many grapes, Cahors Malbec goes by a couple of other names, including Auxerrois, and in the Loire Valley, it goes by the name Côt. To note: Malbec is not exclusively grown in Cahors, though, as it also is one of the five main blending grapes of Bordeaux (but’s a whole other story).
So what’s it like? It’s delicious. I bought the 2014 Chateau du Caillau Cahors Malbec for about $20. It’s a big hefty wine with aromas of earth and something herbaceous bordering on vegetal (which was not appealing, actually). There’s some spice here, and buried deep within, an intriguing note of candied, overripe berries – like a fruit roll-up. To be honest, I was not digging the aroma so much, so I was super happy when it tasted better than it smelled! Hurray! It was almost savory, with a silken texture and nice acidity that makes your mouth water. I drank it with steak and truffle baked potato. Fabulous pairing.
Conversely, Argentine Malbec exhibits way more New World characteristics (duh, because it’s a New World region). This Chento 2014 Malbec from Mendoza (the mothership of Malbec in Argentina) is super fruit-forward and has a lot of oak aging (vanilla), and a textural richness and softer tannins. It’s good – really good – but honestly, it’d be hard to identify Argentine Malbecs and Cahors Malbecs as the same grape — two terroirs, two climates, two totally different approaches to winemaking make for two very different wines. But it’s fun to compare!
So the moral of the story here is: try some Malbec from Cahors! See what you think. And check out these other awesome posts on “the black wine of Cahors” from my fellow Winophiles. Salut!
Rob from Odd Bacchus tells the real deal on Cahors: A LOT to Love
Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm tempts the crowd with Basque Chicken Stew paired with Black Wine
Payal from Keep the Peas gives us a bit of everything we want with White Wine, Red Wine, Black Wine, Cahors!
Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Camilla gets the party going with Grilled Lamb Sirloin with Cedre Heritage 2015
Rupal from Journeys Of A Syrah Queen inspires and delights with Crocus Wines – Exploring Cahors With Paul Hobbs
Jeff from Food Wine Click may be getting us in trouble with Forbidden Foods and Stinky Cahors
Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles gets out the map and takes us to Cahors – Malbec from along the winding river Lot
Jill Barth at L’Occasion, we share Cahors: Your Favorite Wine For Fall
To watch my friend Rob and I blind-taste Cahors Malbec vs. Argentine Malbec, check out our YouTube show.