OK, who’s willing to admit that when they order ‘Pinot’ they mean Grigio – rather than Noir – and when they cry ‘More Sauvignon please waiter’ they expect it to come from New Zealand – rather than its home in the Loire – and every fool knows that Malbec can only come from Argentina!
Once upon a time, when ‘Hector was a pup’, Malbec came from France, and primarily from Cahors, where it’s known as Cot or Auxerrois – not such romantic names I grant you.
It has a long and glorious history, once considered superior to Bordeaux, and exported throughout Europe and Russia as early as the 13th century.
So what went wrong? Well, first came the protectionist measures inflicted on the Haut Pays by the canny merchants of Bordeaux to promote their own wines. The slight disruption of the Hundred Years War, devastation by phylloxera, and increased market access – due to the railways – to the cheaper wines of the Languedoc.
Isolated and poor – there was little in the Lot – they were still struggling well into the mid 1990’s, and as the only appellation in the South West where both Cabernets are persona non grata, it was searching for an identity somewhere between teeth tingling tannic twig juice, for the old folk, and jammy pap for the modern consumer.
Good vinestock, old clones, low yields, barrel maturation and attention to detail, have ensured that some wines have retained the wisdom of the ages.
Classic Cahors should be inky, rather than black, with a dash of medicinal iodine and jam packed with deep, late summer fruit. Expect touches of fig and liquorice, a lash of spice and tar, and a smattering of herby pepperiness. It’s subtle rather than powerful, classy and understated with a touch of astringency and a lingering acidity to cope with the confit and cassoulet!
I’ll be the first to admit that World Malbec Day is a fiendishly clever marketing ploy to promote the wines of Argentina – but why not buck the trend and go crazy for Cot!