Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Malbec, black grape variety once popular in Bordeaux, still the backbone of cahors, but given a new lease of life by its obvious success in argentina. It has many synonyms, of which Galet cites as the true name Côt, or Cot as it is known in much of western France, including the Loire, where it was once quite widely grown. In the Libournais it is known as Pressac, and in Cahors, suggesting origins in northern Burgundy, it was called Auxerrois until Argentine success encouraged adoption of the name Malbec. It also encouraged enthusiasm for the variety in France where total plantings have increased slightly this century, to 6,208 ha/15,334 acres in 2011, some 3,560 ha/8,797 acres in Cahors country. In cooler climates Malbec has some of the disadvantages of Merlot (sensitivity to coulure, and spring frost) without as much obvious fruit quality. Indeed it can taste like a rather rustic, even shorter-lived version of Merlot, although when grown on the least fertile, high, rugged, limestone vineyards of Cahors it can occasionally remind us why the English used to refer to Cahors as ‘the black wine’. Cahors appellation contrôlée regulations stipulate that ‘Cot’ must constitute at least 70% of the wine. Other appellations of south west france in which Malbec may play a (smaller) part are Bergerac, Buzet, Côtes de Duras, Fronton, Côtes du Marmandais, Pécharmant, and Côtes du Brulhois. It is also theoretically allowed into the Midi threshold appellations of Cabardès and Côtes de la Malepère but is rarely found this far from Atlantic influence.