All about Malbec or Côt

Malbec is a black grape variety used in the production of red wines . It is one of the six grape varieties authorized in the blends of Bordeaux reds , in particular because of its color and the robustness of its tannins . It is planted mainly in Cahors , in the south-west of France. It acquires a greater notoriety in Argentina where it gives wines with great potential, and is planted all over the world.

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A little story about the Malbec grape variety

The Malbec grape is better known as Côt . Its name gave rise to the Cotoïde family , which refers to the varieties having in common their origin in the vineyards of south-west France. According to a team of researchers from INRA Montpellier and the University of California at Davis, it is the result of crossbreeding between Magdeleine noire des Charentes and Prunelard noir . Tannat or Négrette are thus its cousins.

It would therefore be from the south-west of France, in particular from the former province of Quercy. During the renaissance, it would have been transplanted to the Loire Valley . It was very cultivated in Bordeaux where it occupied 80% of the vineyards of Bourg and Blaye before the Phylloxera , which destroyed a large part of the vines around 1880. Its vines were nevertheless replanted. The harsh winter of 1956 which destroyed many vines was also fatal to it, and several grape varieties took their place in Bordeaux. Likewise, grafting made it overly productive and too susceptible to rot. Only the limestone plateaus of the Causse du Quercy have enabled it to retain good qualities. The problems of physiological sag and poor yield complained of by producers have been relatively neutralized by clonal selection.

It is now essential in the vineyards of Cahors, because since obtaining the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée in 1971, all wines of the AOC Cahors must use it at least 70%. It is also recommended and classified in several departments of Languedoc and the South-West. It is also planted in the Loire Valley (AOC Touraine and Rosé d'Anjou), although not widespread.


The Malbec grape is dark and develops medium pyramid-shaped clusters . Its thin-skinned berries are quite resistant, and take on a black plumy appearance when fully ripe. Young, its leaves are fluffy then green with bronze areas; while in adulthood, they are whole or tribolate, and have an open U-shaped or V-shaped petiole sinus. It has melting flesh, and its foliage partially reddens in autumn.

It is quite resistant and vigorous, but its precocity makes it susceptible to coulure and frost. It is also susceptible to gray rot , downy mildew , excoriosis and leafhoppers . While it needs plenty of light and heat, it can perform well at relatively high altitudes. It expresses itself better in calcareous, clay-gravelly or clay-limestone soils . Wet ground, on the other hand, does not suit it. For it to reach its full potential, it needs time to wait, because its maturity is of the second era.


There are many synonyms for this red grape variety. One of its earliest synonyms is Pressac, in the Libourne region. This name would come from the fact that the two producers who largely contributed to its distribution were named Pressac and Malbeck. Calling it Malbec or Pressac was therefore the same thing. It is generally called Auxerrois in the Cahors region, while in Bordeaux, it keeps the name of the other producer who released it in the region (Malbeck). It takes the name of Côt en Loire, especially in Touraine. It has several other synonyms, such as Pressac or noir de Pressac (in Saint-Emilion), Griffoin, Mauzat, Vesparol, Prolongeau, Plant du Lot, Plant de Cahors, Plant du Roy, Malbec du Portugal (in Australia), Malbeck (in Argentina)…

Wines produced and regions of production

Côt (the name by which it is better known) is a grape variety that is more cultivated in the world than you might think. Some are unaware of its actual amount of production because of its multiple previous synonyms. It may also be because it is generally used in blends rather than as a standalone varietal. Be that as it may, when its production is well controlled, it gives wines suitable for aging in barrels or in vats , which are colourful, very fruity, fragrant (plum, spices, black currants, game and dried fruit) and rich in tannin. . It must be mature enough to avoid overly herbaceous and vegetal flavors, which often give it bitterness, and are less aromatic than those of Cabernets.

Its cultivation areas have declined in France, but it is present in several regions, particularly in the southwest. Here, it is grown more than elsewhere in France and is generally found in blends. This is the case in the Bergerac, Pécharmant, Côtes de Duras, Buzet and Fronton appellations . It is only in Cahors that it is in the majority, with a presence in wines always above 75%. In this region, its wine has a color so dark and close to black that the English call it “black wine”. It is also used as a single grape variety in local wines. In the Bordeaux region, it is still blended, but not for the white appellations. In the Loire, it can be blended in the Anjou appellations.

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Its cultivation is even more widespread in the rest of the world. Its first world producer is Argentina, where the peculiarities of its culture allow it to produce a colourful, spicy wine with an almost velvety texture. It is so widespread in this country that April 17 has been established as World Malbec Day. Chile, neighboring Argentina, is also successful in the production of this red grape variety. This country has long had fairly large plantations of Côt vines, which give wines of character, ripe and dark. The other countries where it is planted are: Italy, the United States (in California), South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay.

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