The World of Wine – October 2009

The World of Wine

By Ceci Rodriguez

Grape Varieties


The main variety of grape used in a wine determines how the wine is labeled. It is impossible to calculate how many different grapes are grown, but the figure will be in the thousands. However, just a few, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, have global reputations because they are grown around the world and are very familiar to us. What are the differences between grapes grown in different regions? For example, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux, France and one from Napa, California. First they are grown in different climates, weather, types of soil, and topography. As a result, there is a difference in viticulture and vintification.

Another interesting example of this is the Malbec grape. Its origin is France, probably Burgundy, although it became most popular in Bordeaux, but its value, in the blend of Bordeaux wines, is its deep color. The wines made with this grape by itself, made in Cahors (here known as Auxerrois) southwest France, historically were described as “black wines” and were very tannic and long-lasting.

In Argentina, the Malbec grape found a better place to express itself; the wines are richer and more concentrated. Forceful, but well-balanced and lightly spicy, Argentinian Malbec wines are considered the best, and are becoming an international success.

After its success, in Cahors, growers are now trying to produce better wines with the Malbec grape, understanding how they can optimize the vineyards. The wines are better but still high in tannin.

In Zacatecas, México, there is a valley that is starting to produce very good Malbecs; the conditions of the valley are similar to the ones in Argentina, but of course there are a few differences. I suggest you make a comparison between a Malbec from Argentina and a Malbec from México. Both are available at Lakeside, so you can compare and taste the differences between them.

Maybe because we are used to Cabernets, Merlots and Chardonnays of many different origins, sometimes we can´t appreciate the variations. The Malbec grape, being less propagated in the rest of the world, could provide an excellent chance to compare wines made from the same grape but produced in different regions.

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