Baby’s Got Malbec (Heading to the International Malbec Days in Cahors)

Vinted on May 17, 2010 binned in commentary, on the road, wine news

If you live in the U.S. (and chances are high that if you’re reading this, you are in the U.S.), then it’s likely that you’ve been drinking some low-priced Malbec wine lately.

Don’t take my word for it – for some hard data on Malbec drinking trends in the U.S., you can check out a recent article by Laura Saieg on WineSur.com:

According to a report issued by Nielsen, in the last 52 weeks, the consumption of Malbec grew by 60%. This makes Malbec the best performing variety in the US market… In 2009, in spite of the pronounced decline of American economy, there was a consumption increase of 6 million cases with respect to 2008. Most of these cases were within the retail price bracket of under USD 10 per bottle. This was due to the fact that, in response to the crisis, consumers changed their habits and chose less expensive wines. Americans changed from consuming less expensive bottles to focusing on obtaining the best possible value. Restaurant wine sales fell by 6% to 9% this year as consumers, under tight budgets, stopped dining out and preferred to stay at home and buy wine at wine stores.”

Maybe you’ve had one (or several) of those extra 72 million bottles of Malbec consumed in the good ol’ U.S. of A. last year?  Looks like we can’t get enough of the stuff.

What’s most interesting, from a marketing / consumption / trending standpoint, is that you probably had that bottle at home while overall you were drinking less expensive wine (in both senses of the term).

By any measure, that’s a big coop for Malbec producers during the global recession, and it will be interesting to see if the trend continues.  It’s unclear from the WineSur.com article if most of the Malbec that we Americans gulped down was from Argentina, but it’s not unreasonable to conclude that.

Which might be why the French, who invented the stuff, are coming (possibly quite late) to Malbec bandwagon party…

The next International Malbec Days festival is being held in Cahors, self-described as the “Birthplace of Malbec,” on May 21-23 (date of the festival, not the birth date of Malbec).  I will be there on a press junket (as will a few other wine bloggers) to cover the events.  The festival appears to be part of a larger marketing push to get Cahors wine a bit more firmly on the map and in the minds of Malbec consumers.

While it’s certainly understandable for Cahors to want to ride the wave of Malbec consumption trends, they need to be a bit careful – because the Black Wines of Cahors have little in common stylistically with their Argentine counterparts.

Cahors, in the southwest of France, produces only red wine and Malbec is the major variety, and it’s been getting increased attention in the wine world again, which means it might be due for another disaster.  What I mean is, whenever Cahors wine gets popular, something (the Hundred Years War, the phylloxera epidemic, killing frosts) seems to come along and put an abrupt end to the party.

Anyway, the wines are sometimes historically referred to as the “Black Wines of Lot” due to the dark color of Malbec wine, and the river Lot which forms the centerpiece of Cahors itself.

During the festival, I’ll be, at turns, traveling along that river, and possibly paragliding over the vineyards (not sure about that one yet… I’d rather not get myself injured on gnarled old Malbec vines…) – and, of course, tasting a lot of wine and reporting back to you on how things in Cahors compare to Argentina (they’ll also be taking part in the festival).  Apparently the town’s main bridge will be converted into an enormous tasting room for the event as well.  Should be fun (paragliding or not).

For more info. on the Malbec Days festival, be sure to tune back in here, and also check out  http://www.french-malbec.com/international-malbec-days/ and http://www.facebook.com/MalbecDays.

Cheers!

(images: french-malbec.com, cambridge2000.com)

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    Comments

  • @suburbanwino


    The maybe 2 Cahors I've had were very pleasant, but- yes- nothing like the Malbec of Argentina or California. I applaud the French for making an effort to market their product, but I see the marketing itself as very reactionary. Not that the French have been known for being spectacular in the field of promoting their products in the U.S. (varietal labeling- spitting in the eye of the concept of terroir or not- seems to be quite a recent coup for the marketing spin doctors), but you would think someone would have been watching the trends sooner and pounced on this. Wine popularity seems to be cyclical, and you hope they didn't get to the party too late.

    Or, perhaps they know their product is not the same, so they deliberately delayed. I don't know if I can give that much credit, though…

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Suburban – I'm with you, it looks reactionary to me.

  • 1WineDude


    Quick update on this (sort of): after I penned this post, I got wind of the interesting challenge that Remy Charest (who will also be at the Malbec festival in Cahors) received from Château Lagrézette in Cahors, after he found their wine to be not-so-fabulous. I was asked by PalatePress.com to help cover the results of that blind tasting challenge but I won't arrive in Cahors in time to do that, however I am very much looking forward to discussing the results with Remy in Cahors as soon as humanely possible on Thursday, and reporting back those results in some way/shape/form.

    Check out the details here: http://palatepress.com/2010/05/getting-ready-for-

    Cheers!

  • Richard Scholtz


    I think this may be a case where not reacting to the Malbec craze may be a good thing, as French Cahors and Argentinian Malbec are so dissimilar. One of the problems with Cahors is that it's not widely distributed. In three stores around Austin that I consider to be well-stocked, I've managed to find only 2-3 bottles. Also, of the few times I've had it, the wines are really, really tannic. If you gave a glass of it to someone, there's no way they'd guess that it's actually Malbec. Maybe I'm not getting great wines, or they need to sit in the cellar for a while to simmer down.

    If I were a marketing person for Cahors, I would definitely NOT market it as Malbec. I think so many people would be put off by the wine, thinking they would be getting something stylistically like Argentinian Malbec, they'd never buy it again

    • 1WineDude


      Good points, Richard – maybe they should be marketing them with a revived "Black Wines" campaign?

  • drinknectar


    Joe – 1) I'm so jealous right now 2) I like the Cahors marketing campaign. It's distinctive from Argentina Malbec. I'm not sure they're making as strong a play as they could in the US right now…so hopefully getting some traditional and non traditional media support with help them out. I'm looking forward to your posts on this, especially the paragliding pictures.

    P.S. Washington State is making some kick ass Malbec!

    Josh

    • 1WineDude


      Well, given the ash cloud, I may end up not going, or getting stuck in the airport trying to get home… :-).

  • willybuoy


    I am drinking a lot of Argentinian Malbec right now because it is good value for money. Good post and have a good time!

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, WillyBuoy – you're in good company!

  • @clarksports


    Let the french style breathe some. I'll open my Cahors Malbec in the morning. By night time it tastes very Left Bank.http://twitpic.com/1ds2zp

    • 1WineDude


      So long as it doesn't taste very Left Barnyard! :-)

  • Lesley


    I'll be curious to hear your report. I dare say we've experience the same Malbec trend up here in Canada, probably even earlier here in Quebec (Fuzion's Shiraz/Malbec blend created quite a sensation in Quebec a few years ago, and then in Ontario). Sadly it's hard to come by higher-end Malbec though, and considering the amazing wine I tried while in Argentina I find it a bit sad that Argentine Malbec has become synonymous with bargain-bin wine.

    Hope you get the chance to go paragliding. I did it in Peru a few years ago and it was amazing – actually quite serene and not at all scary like I expected!

  • 1WineDude


    Thanks, Lesley! Looks like they're opting for a large balloon ride instead of paragliding, but my erratic behavior might make the ride dangerous anyway. :-)

  • Jolan


    I have been lucky enough to live in Argentina off and on for the past few years, and I am so happy to see that Malbec is doing so well here in the States. The grape is a great source of pride to Argentines, and the growing export market is certainly helping Argentina's economy. Inexpensive, tasty wine — when you're drinking Malbec, you usually feel like you're getting some sort of a steal. Which is such a nice feeling, for most wine drinkers I know.

    I hope you have a great time in Cahors! Let us know any particular bottles we should keep an eye out for back here.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Jolan – we'll be getting started on the wines tonight…

  • Ikal 1150 Wines


    We love the earthiness of Cahors, and it's great they're educating folks about Malbec… everyone benefits!

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