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Saturday, January 18, 2014


I enjoy pouring wine tastings.  Even when I’m pouring somewhere other than my regular Friday gig, if someone asks me something ridiculous or takes a cheap shot at a wine I’m showing for no legitimate reason, or gets drunk at a grand tasting on the 100+ wines being shown, etc. - I still enjoy pouring most tastings.  That’s no secret.

The other thing that’s no secret, particularly to those who know me (and my palate) or who read my blog with some regularity - the other non-secret is that I’m a Sud-Ouest wine devotee.  I love those wines.  They’re so honest and expressive and delicious.

That said, something I noticed, especially when I’m pouring some of my tastings, is this...

If I say Malbec, what’s the first word to come to your head?
Malbec based wine from Cahors, France

If you said Argentina, ok, I understand and to an extent I agree, but being a Francophile and lover of wines from Sud-Ouest, unfortunately you’d probably get a bop on the head from me if you did indeed say Argentina.


Well, Malbec isn’t originally from Argentina.

Think of it this way.

I live in New York.  Not to brag, but lots of people want to live in New York.  So plenty of people move to New York, from other parts of the United States and other parts of the world.  If someone moves here from elsewhere, do you think that now that he lives in New York, he’s suddenly going to worship the Yankees, automatically know how to fold a slice of pizza correctly, and understand the subway system overnight?  Doubtful.  And for good reason - he’s a transplant.  He’s not a native New Yorker.

Malbec is not Argentinean.  I repeat - Malbec is not Argentinean.  He’s French.  And I’m not just saying that because I have a special devotion to French wine.  The truth is, Malbec is French.  He’s as French as the Eiffel Tower, Cassoulet, and Louis Vuitton.

I pour a Cahors at lots of wine tastings.  People in attendance look at the label and see Malbec clearly printed on the label.  As I go through my spiel, I mention that it’s a Malbec FROM FRANCE.  And people look at me and say, “Malbec from France?  Are you sure it’s not from Argentina?  Because Malbec is from Argentina, and I’ve never heard of a Malbec from France.”

Ok, for starters, I represent this portfolio, so yes, I know this wine, and yes, I’m sure it’s from France.  And another thing - you’re wrong.  Malbec isn’t from Argentina.  It’s from France.  It just happens to grow well in Argentina and the winemakers in places like Mendoza have been quite successful in producing Malbec based wines.  But Argentinean Malbec isn’t quite the same as the original French Malbec.  It doesn’t have the same characteristics.

And that makes sense.  A person from Boston moves to New York.  He eventually learns to fold the pizza correctly, bagels become his regular breakfast, and Chinese food becomes his midnight snack.  He learns when to take the 123 and when to take the NQR.  He learns never to go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  And he embraces Billy Joel.  But in all likelihood, however, he never learns to love the Yankees or any of our other teams.  It’s because he’s technically Bostonian.  But he sure can thrive and become quite successful after his move to New York.  And aside from his accent and his Red Sox hat, he appears like a New Yorker.

Malbec is from France.  Whether his origins are northern Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Cahors (in Sud-Ouest) is somewhat disputed, but he’s definitely from France.  Some time later, probably around the mid-1800s, Malbec arrived in Argentina.  Over time, winemakers discovered the potential for success in Argentinean wine regions, and Malbec from Argentina has become very popular, while French Malbec has diminished in popularity.

Malbec from Argentina is round and rich and luscious with characteristics of stewed blueberry, dark chocolate, and purple blossoms.  Malbec from France (oftentimes Cahors but sometimes Bordeaux or Loire) is drier and shows characteristics of more tart fruit, leather, and savory herbs.

My point is, Argentinean Malbec has its own unique style, but it’s not the original Malbec.  So it’s completely ok if you had never tasted a French Malbec until you had it at one of my tastings.  Just trust me when I tell you that French Malbec is the original Malbec.  And Malbec from Argentina, I agree, can be absolutely wonderful.  But try to remember who Malbec really is, and that, much like many other grapes grown around the world - well, he’s actually from France.

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