The Birthplace & Re-Birthplace of Malbec: Cahors & Mendoza

It’s Malbec, yet, it’s not. According to Wine Grapes, it should be called Cot. Very well.

But, what is this variety anyway? Flavor-wise and structure-wise, I often describe it as “the new Merlot” to both trade and consumer folk. Indeed, it turns out that it almost is. Rather, it is a half-sibling of Merlot as they share the same mother, Magdeleine Noire des Charentes.

At any rate, while these grapes “first saw the day”, as the French would say, in southwestern France, its modern heyday is in Argentina’s Mendoza. While Malbec from Cahors was always rough and rustic, Malbec from Mendoza has always been fruit-driven and friendly. The pairing below gives a fair illustration of the over-arching stylistic differences of the appellations, even if this bottling from Crocus is aiming for something higher than where it currently marks.

Crocus 2012 Cahors L’Atelier 13.5% $28
Not quite as impenetrable as the famous “black wine” of yesteryear’s Cahors, this is still impressively deep with a black-laced core. The nose is strong on slate, graphite and asphalt notes along with background notes of potting soil, worn leather and roasted game. The attack is stern in its fruit reserve. Even with the bottle open for 24 hours, the wine is rather Grinch-like with only bare whiffs of blackberries and black currants. The tannins are gangly and coarse yet neither strident nor saliva-wicking. Seemingly saving the best for last, the finish at last brings on layers of fruit: dried blueberries, sloe jam and prunes. Cahors is evolving tremendously now, and while this is certainly clean and modernized to a good degree, it’s still a tough sell. I have every faith this wine will “get there”, however, as its oldest sibling, the Crocus Grand Vin, is a masterpiece.
Drink: 2015-18

Viña Cobos 2014 Malbec Felino Mendoza 14.5% $20
This is a brightly magenta-colored wine with a black-blue core. The attack is lush and round and crammed with ripe raspberry pie flavors, including fresh vanilla bean and crisp crust. The mid-palate morphs into lush blueberry jam. Creamy, dense and mouth-coating, this drinks well with marbled sirloin as well as alone. That said, it’s a copious glass. So, a bit like certain beers, it is so filling it might be slow going to empty the bottle. The medium finish shows off the silky tannins and hard-working, if only moderately lifting, acidity that shows a mastery of ripeness in the vineyard and refined skill in the winery.
Drink: 2015-18