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International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Tim York » Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:23 pm

I found the International Malbec Days both highly enjoyable and instructive. The organization was excellent, the conference facilities (with translation facilities from Spanish into French) were good, the setting for the tastings on the historic Valentré bridge was absolutely superb and the 2005 Cahors wines were more approachable than I expected. Nature co-operated by providing two absolutely radiant days out of three.

Only time will tell whether the event was a success in the light of my analysis of its objectives. These are easy to discern from a Cahors perspective, namely
- to promote the reality and image of Cahors as a “great” wine region
- to climb commercially on the back of the “Malbec” brand so successfully developed by the Argentinians
- to galvanize Cahors producers and marketeers by exposing the potential and the plans for improving quality and marketing
- to share, yes, Agentinian know-how and clones
- to develop awareness of Cahors amongst wine drinkers (limited at this event to those who know French).

It is less easy to see the objectives of the Argentinian contingent. They are clearly the senior partners at the beginning of the 21st century with 24,000 hectares of Malbec versus 4,500 in Cahors and with a well developed market position, particularly in English speaking countries. I guess that they are attracted by the historical prestige of Cahors, the birthplace of Malbec, and think that any projection of Malbec’s image will be good for them.

I have come away with the following impressions.

1) Malbec is a variety with outstanding properties for colour, stability and balance.
2) Cahors has varied terroirs, some with potential for supple fruity wines, others for more complex and austere wines with backbone and a few for really great wines with rich fruit, velvety tannins and savoury acidity. (Also some superb high altitude terroirs in Mendoza and more ordinary ones lower down.)
3) The full potential is at present only being sporadically realized in Cahors due to frequently inadequate husbandry and wine-making, e.g. too large berries (Michel Bettane’s point). Improvement on this is essential to achieve a Cahors break-through.
4) I tasted a handful of very fine wines, e.g. GC and Le Cèdre from Château de Cèdre, Expression from Château Lamartine and Gran Reserva from Fabre & Montmayou, which should serve as examples to emulate, and quite a few wines enjoyable to drink from all the exhibiting regions.
5) Cahors wines tend to be Atlantic in character with savoury acidity and marked tannins suitable for North-Western European food whilst Argentinian Malbec is more Southern with sweeter fruit and thicker textures, more suitable for aromatic and fusion food.
6) The sweeter, thicker character of Argentian Malbec is more likely to appeal to mass markets, particularly in English speaking countries.
7) Cahors should not try to ape Argentinian Malbec for the mass markets; it has neither the right climate nor the right cost structure for that. It should target a more classy and connoisseur market by improving overall quality within its existing character.
8) For my taste, Argentinian Malbec is by far the best of the New World’s red varietal brands (e.g. much more interesting than Shiraz) but I sense some homogenization and dumbing down. (An Argentinian nurseryman speaker dismayed me by talking of research for massal selections and clones to secure more uniform taste.) There is a danger here that the “Malbec” image may go the same way as that of “Chardonnay” and “Merlot”.
9) The Cahors marketing emphasis on “Malbec” and on “black” runs risks in particular
-of disappointing consumers attuned to the Argentinian taste by greater acidity and leaner tannins and textures,
-of not always living up to the “black” colour and body expectations; a lot of the more supple and fruity Cahors, of which some of the 2005s were delicious, do not have a particularly deep colour or body.



I wish Malbec well and will certainly be talking up and drinking more from Cahors, Touraine and Argentina than in the past.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Peter May » Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:52 pm

Tim


Thanks for posting. Very interesting observations.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by AlexR » Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:40 pm

I remember when one of my customers, the buyer from Unwins, said how put off he was by the people in Cahors emphasizing their "black wine".

While has some meaning to students of wine, it sounds positively anti-commercial to most people!

They would do well to drop any mention of it!!!

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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Clint Hall » Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:20 am

Tim, what is the consensus on the future of Malbec (Cot) in the Loire? Recently I've run across a good number of tasty low-cost Loire Malbec blends, especially the 2005s, and hope to see more of the same in future years. These of course are much lighter wines than the Malbecs from Argentina and Cahors but I've found them excellent matches with food.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Tim York » Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:51 am

AlexR wrote:I remember when one of my customers, the buyer from Unwins, said how put off he was by the people in Cahors emphasizing their "black wine".

While has some meaning to students of wine, it sounds positively anti-commercial to most people!

They would do well to drop any mention of it!!!

Best regards,
Alex R.


My feeling too, Alex. There was a rather pretentious presentation from a couple of Sorbonne sociologists who gave a lot of, I thought, phoney reasons why "black" is such a good slogan. The otherwise intelligent seeming Cahors Marketing Director seemed attracted by these arguments.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Tim York » Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:55 am

Clint Hall wrote:Tim, what is the consensus on the future of Malbec (Cot) in the Loire? Recently I've run across a good number of tasty low-cost Loire Malbec blends, especially the 2005s, and hope to see more of the same in future years. These of course are much lighter wines than the Malbecs from Argentina and Cahors but I've found them excellent matches with food.


Clint, I agree with you about Loire Malbec (Côt). There was a speaker from Touraine. There is apparently increasing interest there in Malbec and, if the Cahors thrust is successful, I think that we will see an upsurge in plantings.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Alejandro Audisio » Mon Apr 14, 2008 11:05 am

I have to be amazed when I see the French embracing the term " Malbec ", with all its implications.... in any event, I think that this move is a good thing for all Malbecs produced world-wide.

On a related side note, while this grape has been a great ambassador for the wines of Argentina, I hope that wine lovers all around the world realize that while Malbec is an important part of the Argentine Wine Industry and its portfolio, there are many other wines that are also worth trying... its unfortunate when folks come down and visit are seem only interested in Malbecs, that makes them only get an initial snapshot of whats down here.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Peter May » Mon Apr 14, 2008 12:07 pm

Alejandro Audisio wrote: while this grape has been a great ambassador for the wines of Argentina, I hope that wine lovers all around the world realize that while Malbec is an important part of the Argentine Wine Industry and its portfolio, there are many other wines that are also worth trying... its unfortunate when folks come down and visit are seem only interested in Malbecs, that makes them only get an initial snapshot of whats down here.


Don't knock it. You have something special there, a category that you own, and one that people are interesting in buying.

OK you also make wines from Cab, Syrah & etc. But so does everyone.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Brian K Miller » Mon Apr 14, 2008 12:18 pm

Clint Hall wrote:Tim, what is the consensus on the future of Malbec (Cot) in the Loire? Recently I've run across a good number of tasty low-cost Loire Malbec blends, especially the 2005s, and hope to see more of the same in future years. These of course are much lighter wines than the Malbecs from Argentina and Cahors but I've found them excellent matches with food.



Amen, Brother Clint! I loved the Puzelat "In Cot We Trust" from the Loire. Very high acidity, somewhat lean, but still floral-and savory!
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Tim York » Mon Apr 14, 2008 1:48 pm

Peter May wrote:
OK you also make wines from Cab, Syrah & etc. But so does everyone.



I sensed a concern on the part of the Argentinian delegation that everyone might muscle in on Malbec as well.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Sue Courtney » Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:06 am

Tim York wrote:I found the International Malbec Days both highly enjoyable and instructive....

Great synopsis Tim. Was there any mention of Malbec outside of Cahors and Argentina. I'm just wondering how widely the 'international' was interpreted.
Cheers,
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Tim York » Tue Apr 15, 2008 3:38 am

Sue Courtney wrote:Was there any mention of Malbec outside of Cahors and Argentina. I'm just wondering how widely the 'international' was interpreted.
Cheers,
Sue


There were good wines to taste from the Loire and Côtes de Bourg (Bordeaux) and I recall one from Spain which I disliked so much, jammy and oaky, that I did not bother to note it (strangely Spain does not appear in the list below - the missing 1.3% ? :? ). I did not notice any other "foreigners". The Verona firm Masi was a no-show with its Corbec; I'm not sure whether that was Italian or Argentinian sourced.

Production elsewhere was briefly talked about and the following table was provided -

Percentage shares of world production area of 34,000 hectares in 2007

%

Argentina 71.5
France 19.5
Chile 3
USA 2
South Africa 1.2
Italy 1
New Zealand 0.5

Total 98.7 ?!
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Sue Courtney » Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:03 am

AlexR wrote:I remember when one of my customers, the buyer from Unwins, said how put off he was by the people in Cahors emphasizing their "black wine".

I've always thought of Malbec as being positively purple. It is a descriptor that can encompass the colour, the florals and the fruits.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Peter May » Wed Apr 16, 2008 1:20 pm

Malbec plantings in South Africa increased from 20.7ha in 1996 to 442.4 ha at 30/11/06
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Brian K Miller » Wed Apr 16, 2008 1:33 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:I've always thought of Malbec as being positively purple. It is a descriptor that can encompass the colour, the florals and the fruits.


I think that makes sense. Heck, I've used the phrase "this TASTES purple" before in reference to Malbecs and other wines. :P

I would say that I have had a couple of good California Malbecs. Elizabeth Spencer in Rutherford made a soft, juicy, gulpable Malbec that was quite delicious. Hess Collection made a rather tannic but still tasty one that is still being cellared.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Tim York » Thu Apr 17, 2008 6:27 am

Brian K Miller wrote:
Sue Courtney wrote:I've always thought of Malbec as being positively purple. It is a descriptor that can encompass the colour, the florals and the fruits.


I think that makes sense. Heck, I've used the phrase "this TASTES purple" before in reference to Malbecs and other wines. :P



Purple also corresponds to the properties of Malbec; it is very strong on blue/mauve colouring matter.

For my money "purple" would be a much more promising promotional slogan than "black", but it lacks the historical association with mediaeval Cahors "black wine".
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Alejandro Audisio » Thu Apr 17, 2008 6:33 pm

Another finder of purple in Malbec here....

Re. malbec made outside of Argentina... the most impressive pure Malbec Ive tasted comes from South Africa. When visiting one of the wineries there, I had the chance to meet the owner and he had me taste a couple of barrel samples of their pure Malbec... I was quite impressed.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Alejandro Audisio » Thu Apr 17, 2008 6:45 pm

Peter May wrote:Don't knock it. You have something special there, a category that you own, and one that people are interesting in buying.

OK you also make wines from Cab, Syrah & etc. But so does everyone.


Im not knocking...... alas, many visitors just come down and only want to drink Malbec...... its like visiting Australia and only drinking Shiraz.... you only get part of the picture.
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Re: International Malbec Days - conclusions

by Bill Hooper » Fri Apr 18, 2008 12:37 am

Alejandro Audisio wrote:
Peter May wrote:Don't knock it. You have something special there, a category that you own, and one that people are interesting in buying.

OK you also make wines from Cab, Syrah & etc. But so does everyone.


Im not knocking...... alas, many visitors just come down and only want to drink Malbec...... its like visiting Australia and only drinking Shiraz.... you only get part of the picture.


I just got back from Mendoza a few weeks ago. I was quite impressed by the Cabernet Franc that a few producers were offering. Of course the Torrontes (Colome in particular) was wonderful. I also had a great Tannat-Malbec blend from Dona Paula. But, you can't walk down the street without tripping over a bottle of Malbec. Or a dog with a bottle of Malbec!
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