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WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Robin Garr » Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:43 pm

Malbec by any other name

I say "Malbec," you say "Auxerrois," and someone else says "Côt." Curiously, we're all talking about the same red wine grape ... and just to make matters even more confusing, it's also known, mostly in less prominent French wine regions, as Pressac, Pied Rouge, Jacobain and Grifforin.

In her <I>Oxford Wine Companion</I>, Jancis Robinson reports that the French ampelographer (wine-grape expert) Pierre Galet lists "several thousand" synonyms, including Côt and Auxerrois. She attributes this hard-to-believe statistic to the grape's once widespread planting in more than 30 of France's <i>départements</i>, in many of which it apparently was called by a local name.

We've often discussed Malbec from Argentina, where it has become the South American nation's trademark grape, widely exported to the U.S. and around the world.

Curiously, Malbec's popularity, and plantings, have plummeted in France over the same time span as it has boomed in South America. At least in the climate of Western Europe, it's hard to grow economically, subject to frost and mildew and a vine disease called <i>coulure</i>.

Once an important if minor player in the Bordeaux blend, it has now almost disappeared from the Médoc, where I've had producers look at me as if I had committed a social <i>faux pas</i> when I thoughtlessly asked if they still grew any of the stuff. In Argentina's high, dry Mendoza region, however, these problems are offset by its relatively heavy production.

Argentina invariably calls the grape Malbec, as did modern Bordeaux, when it still grew enough to mention. It's Auxerrois in Cahors in Southwestern France, and Côt in the Loire Valley, where it's often blended with Cabernet Franc and Gamay.

East or West, by whatever name you call it, Malbec makes an enjoyable if not necessarily "noble" wine, generally distinguished by plummy dark-fruit flavors, subtle tastes of the earth and good acidity, all of which makes it a worthy food wine. Price it right, as the Argentines generally do, and you've got a recipe for success.

Today's featured wines (tasted at different times) offer the opportunity to compare and contrast a mid-range Côt from Clos Roche Blanche, an artisanal, organic producer in the Loire's Touraine region; and a budget-price Argentine Malbec under the new Terra Buena label from California's Laurel Glen, which - as with its Terra Rosa - grows the grapes in Mendoza but finishes the wine in Sonoma County.

The wines show the expected regional differences, the Loire red being lean, tart and minerally, the Argentine wine more fruit-forward and powerful. Still, the Malbec character comes through sufficiently to hint that the wines are distant cousins if not siblings. I like them both.

<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/roch0318.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Clos Roche Blanche 2005 Touraine "Cuvée Côt" ($18.99)

Very dark blackish-purple color, almost opaque. Deep, plummy black fruit adds subtle notes of leather and a fragrant whiff of pepper. Flavors are similar, intense black plums, freshly ground pepper and a touch of Loire "rainwater over rocks" minerality. Crisp acidity and soft tannins come together to wrap up a well-balanced package. U.S. importer: LDM Wines Inc., NYC; Louis/Dressner Selections. (March 18, 2007)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> Thanks to their lean and minerally character, I like Loire reds with grilled poultry and pork, lighter far than the usual beef-and-red-wine match. I got experimental with a spicy Ma Po Tofu, which worked but really was not an inspired match ... but I had to try.

<B>VALUE:</B> In today's market it's hard to find quality Loire reds for less than the upper teens. Fair value against the competition.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Drink now, or enjoy - assuming decent cellar conditions - over the next four or five years.

<B>PRONUNCIATION</B>
<B>Touraine</B> = "<i>Too-rain</i>"
<B>Côt</B> = "<i>Coh</i>"

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
The image links are broken, but you'll find some information about Clos Roche Blanche on this importer's fact sheet.
http://www.louisdressner.com/Roche/

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Chambers Street Wines in NYC still has some supply of the 2005 Cuvée Côt. Check this link for Clos Roche Blanche:
http://www.chambersstwines.com/Search.asp?search=go&kw=clos+roche+blanche

Find other vendors and compare prices for Clos Roche Blanche Côt on Wine-Searcher.com:
[url=http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Roche%2bBlanche%2bCot/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP]http://www.wine-searcher.com/
find/Roche%2bBlanche%2bCot/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP[/url]

<table border="0" align="right" width="145"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/terr0602.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Terra Buena 2003 Mendoza Malbec ($9)

Very dark reddish-purple in color, almost black. Plums and a more stewed note of prunes, warm black fruit on the nose and palate. Warm and ripe, juicy black fruit is nicely balanced by fresh acidity, with an earthy touch of tannins showing up in the finish. Rather high 14.5% alcohol manifests itself as body and an acceptable touch of heat. Definitely a carnivore's wine. (June 2, 2007)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> Rare grilled beef is the perfect partner for Mendoza Malbec, and we couldn't have asked for a better match than a locally produced, grass-fed T-bone.

<B>VALUE:</B> Excellent wine for a single-digit price.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Made for current enjoyment, but with its good balance and fruit and sturdy screwcap, it should keep for several years.

<B>PRONUNCIATION</B>
<B>Malbec</B> = "<i>Mahl-bec</i>"

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Check prices and find vendors for Laurel Glen's Terra Buena wines on Wine-Searcher.com:
[url=http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Terra%2bBuena/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP]http://www.wine-searcher.com/
find/Terra%2bBuena/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP[/url]

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Alejandro Audisio

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Alejandro Audisio » Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:06 pm

Thanks for the notes.....

On a side note, whats up with the label on this malbec... :x :roll: :shock:

(where is the puke icon when you need it?) :!:
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Brian K Miller » Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:23 pm

It's simple. You Argentinians do have a predilection for psychoanalysis. That means you are all conflicted and crazy. Obviously, the label designer was simply trying to self-medicate through liberal applications of LSD and mushrooms. :P :P :shock:
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Jean-Pierre Cauvin » Tue Jun 05, 2007 10:57 am

While Auxerrois aka Côt is hardly found elsewhere in France, it is the principal grape of Cahors, a wine made in Southwestern France. A fine Cahors is truly sublime. Trouble is, few if any are to be found on American wine merchants' shelves these days. If you travel to France and try some of the better Cahors, you won't be disappointed. No South American Malbec I've tasted comes close. Until the seventies, a Cahors wine was but a regional "vin de terroir". Since then producers have perfected it, such that some particular châteaux offer world-class beauties.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Rahsaan » Tue Jun 05, 2007 11:07 am

Jean-Pierre Cauvin wrote:Trouble is, few if any are to be found on American wine merchants' shelves these days. If you travel to France and try some of the better Cahors, you won't be disappointed..


Actually I think most of the better Cahors are sold in the US.

Gamot, Cayrou, Cayrou, Gamot. Coutale. Not my style but Triguedina and Lagrazette as well. Plus others.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Brian K Miller » Tue Jun 05, 2007 11:47 am

How would you describe Lagrazette, Rahsan? The local BevMo carries it, and I've been intrigued.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Rahsaan » Tue Jun 05, 2007 11:50 am

Brian K Miller wrote:How would you describe Lagrazette, Rahsan? The local BevMo carries it, and I've been intrigued.


Not sure about your preferences as I seem to remember you posting on a lot of rich CA wines, so you may indeed like these. Also, I visited several years ago and don't have my notes on the differences among the various cuvees. But generally speaking the wines are more modern, rich, oaky, and expensive than others in the region. Michel Rolland is a consultant.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Mark Lipton » Tue Jun 05, 2007 11:51 am

Rahsaan wrote:
Jean-Pierre Cauvin wrote:Trouble is, few if any are to be found on American wine merchants' shelves these days. If you travel to France and try some of the better Cahors, you won't be disappointed..


Actually I think most of the better Cahors are sold in the US.

Gamot, Cayrou, Cayrou, Gamot. Coutale. Not my style but Triguedina and Lagrazette as well. Plus others.


And, depending on taste, some of the lesser wines, too. In addition to your list, there's de Cedre, Coustarelle, Clos Siguier, Ch. Larmartine and Ch. La Caminade. I'm not surprised that Triguedina isn't to your taste: I've never "got" their wines either...

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Alejandro Audisio » Tue Jun 05, 2007 3:16 pm

Jean-Pierre Cauvin wrote:No South American Malbec I've tasted comes close.


Jean-Pierre,

Welcome to the boards.

It seems clear you have been tasting the wrong South American Malbecs. They come in many styles, its a matter of finding one that matches your taste.

BTW, Im not sure the objective of a Malbec should be to "come close" to the French Malbecs. Moreover, if you consider what the general consensus is on the quality of South American (especially Argentine) Malbec, the inverse is probably true.

Regards from Buenos Aires,
Alejandro
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Alejandro Audisio » Tue Jun 05, 2007 3:18 pm

Brian K Miller wrote:It's simple. You Argentinians do have a predilection for psychoanalysis. That means you are all conflicted and crazy. Obviously, the label designer was simply trying to self-medicate through liberal applications of LSD and mushrooms. :P :P :shock:


Brian, I have a smart arse answer for you above post, but Im late for my Shrink appointment so it will have to wait... :wink:
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Jenise » Tue Jun 05, 2007 6:22 pm

Rahsaan wrote:Actually I think most of the better Cahors are sold in the US.

Gamot, Cayrou, Cayrou, Gamot. Coutale. Not my style but Triguedina and Lagrazette as well. Plus others.


Perhaps this is another of those regional differences--what's true of the Bay Area and New York areas you haunt might not be so true of Austin, Texas.

Welcome to the forum, Jean-Pierre.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Rahsaan » Tue Jun 05, 2007 6:46 pm

Jenise wrote:Perhaps this is another of those regional differences--what's true of the Bay Area and New York areas you haunt might not be so true of Austin, Texas..


Perhaps. I must admit that I know nothing about wine shops in Austin, and there is such great diversity in Nyc and the Bay Area.

But, people have told me that the wine selection in Austin is quite good considering the size (although isn't it the 10th or 11th largest metropolitan area in the country).

Of course for whatever reason most people who talk to me about Austin are usually quite positive in all respects.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Dave Erickson » Wed Jun 06, 2007 1:03 pm

No discussion of malbec/cot/auxerrois is complete without mention of Cahors' great rabble-rouser, Georges Vigouroux. His "Haut Serre" wines are among the very best I've tasted. They require long ageing, but are well worth the effort. I still have a couple 1990s, and I'd put them up against lots of Bordeaux wines that sell for four or five times the price.

Vigouroux's latest abomination (or innovation, if you prefer) is a rose actually labeled "Malbec." I'm surprised he hasn't been denounced from every pulpit in Cahors. It's very good, by the way, and sells for about five US dollars--at least that's what it cost at E. LeClerc in Souillac... :D
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Dave Erickson » Wed Jun 06, 2007 1:03 pm

No discussion of malbec/cot/auxerrois is complete without mention of Cahors' great rabble-rouser, Georges Vigouroux. His "Haut Serre" wines are among the very best I've tasted. They require long ageing, but are well worth the effort. I still have a couple 1990s, and I'd put them up against lots of Bordeaux wines that sell for four or five times the price.

Vigouroux's latest abomination (or innovation, if you prefer) is a rose actually labeled "Malbec." I'm surprised he hasn't been denounced from every pulpit in Cahors. It's very good, by the way, and sells for about five US dollars--at least that's what it cost at E. LeClerc in Souillac... :D
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Brian K Miller » Thu Jun 07, 2007 12:05 am

Rahsaan wrote:
Not sure about your preferences as I seem to remember you posting on a lot of rich CA wines, so you may indeed like these. Also, I visited several years ago and don't have my notes on the differences among the various cuvees. But generally speaking the wines are more modern, rich, oaky, and expensive than others in the region. Michel Rolland is a consultant.


Thanks. I somewhat like "both" broad style categories, although living in California I do drink a lot of regional wines. I am trending a bit towards the "Old World, though. Still...I really liked a Rolland wine last month (2000 Ch. Larrivet Haut Brion), so I'll give it a try.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Dan Smothergill » Thu Jun 07, 2007 6:24 am

Quite a bit of Auxerrois is produced in Alsace too, although their publicity machine downplays it in favor of the big guns (Gewurztraminer, Riesling, etc.) I've seen it in Switzerland as well, yet never knew before that it and Malbec are from the same grape. Add to the list of sins committed by Asimov the other day http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/06/dining/06pour.html?_r=1&ref=dining&oref=slogin the omission of how much there is to be learned here about wine.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Dave Erickson » Thu Jun 07, 2007 5:38 pm

Dan Smothergill wrote:Quite a bit of Auxerrois is produced in Alsace too, although their publicity machine downplays it in favor of the big guns (Gewurztraminer, Riesling, etc.) I've seen it in Switzerland as well, yet never knew before that it and Malbec are from the same grape. Add to the list of sins committed by Asimov the other day http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/06/dining/06pour.html?_r=1&ref=dining&oref=slogin the omission of how much there is to be learned here about wine.


Hey, it's enough to confuse anybody.

"Auxerrois" in Alsace is a white grape. "Auxerrois" in Cahors is a red grape. There is no connection other than the name. All confusion is forgiven, especially since there is also in Alsace "auxerrois gris" which is another name for pinot gris, and "auxerrois blanc" which means "chardonnay" in Lorraine.

Just for extra craziness, the white grape is sometimes called "Pinot Auxerrois" even though it is no relation to the Pinot family.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Malbec by any other name

by Dan Smothergill » Fri Jun 08, 2007 1:33 am

Dave Erickson wrote:
Hey, it's enough to confuse anybody.

"Auxerrois" in Alsace is a white grape. "Auxerrois" in Cahors is a red grape.


Thanks Dave. As I said elsewhere just yesterday, you learn a lot here.

Dan

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