Wine Sense Season 1 Episode 110 (Malbec): The Truth About Malbec

By Brian Lemay 5 comments

Nicole: Okay Philippe. We are in Cahors, where
the Malbec grape really originated. Philippe: That’s right yeah, yeah. Nicole: So it’s not Argentina. It’s right
here in France. Philippe: No, Argentina is our cousin and
Malbec went to Argentina about 150 years ago but it came from France. Nicole: Now tell me a little bit about this
region of Cahors, because I think there’s a lot of history behind it? Philippe: We are not very far from Bordeaux,
but Bordeaux is by the sea and for centuries had access to – that harbor access to the
sea and sending Cahors wines meant to go through Bordeaux. Nicole: An easy way to transport the wine. Philippe: Yeah well, at that time it was key
to go through boats, no planes and so has to go through Bordeaux. And the vines were
introduced in Cahors with the Romans coming from Italy 2000 years ago. And Romans loved
drinking so they planted vines and since then, vines have been growing here in Cahors Nicole: I know France is very regimented on
the regions and the defined boundaries, and you’re in the appellation of Cahors. What
does that really mean and what rules do you have to live by? Philippe: Appellation is very complex. It
took me a few years to really understand it. To make it simple, “appellation” is sometime
written as AOC and what’s important for you to remember is the “O” in the AOC means Origin.
So that is key thing that the AOC it means that the wine comes from grapes from a geographic
area. So the AOC is really to prove that the grape and the wine come from a special location.
But there is a price to pay because you belong to the AOC, you need to follow a lot of rules.
It’s not just having a vineyard, but you have a maximum yield load, you cannot water the
vines, you have a lot of process, a lot of restrictions. So there are so many rules that
at the end, it’s good and bad. What’s good is that you have authentic wine, but nowadays
with worldwide competition, it makes it difficult to adapt. Nicole: Now these grapes are actually growing
on one type of terroir. But on the other side of this slope, on this hill, you have another
type of terroir. Philippe: That’s the beauty about wine, not
just Malbec, but wine in general is that the wine is an expression of where it comes from.
And so when you have different plots, you have different expressions. And you could
to decide to bottle each expression and then you have hundreds or thousands of different
wine styles and that’s not the goal. So at the end, you decide which of the styles your
vineyard is offering you, you want to express and that’s where blending comes into the picture.
And the soil is very important. Here we have some clay, we can see the clay and we have
limestone. But there is no iron. While on the other side we have iron and this will
give different wine styles. And so depending on the vintage – because in France the vintage
is very important – we may decide to blend differently so every year is a different recipe. Nicole: Sounds good. I want to go up to the
castle and have a drink. Nicole: This is the infamous Chateau de Chambert. Philippe: That’s correct. This wine is a blend.
It’s a blend of plots. With this blend the goal is to have the power of Malbec but there
is also a little bit of Merlot in it. And Merlot brings additional silkiness and also
allows us to drink the wine sooner, while Malbec can age a lot more, so a good compromise. Nicole: Alright. Pour! Both: laughing. Nicole: S’il vous plait! BREAK Nicole: You can definitely smell the black
cherries and plums. Philippe: You can smell it’s very fresh. The
freshness. Nicole: Spicy. Philippe: Some spiciness. That’s the Malbec.
It’s spicy. And also you can smell a little bit of wood but it’s very subtle. A very little
bit. And so all this makes it very complex. Nicole: Now if someone had never tried Malbec
before, then what other varietal would you say this is similar to? Philippe: I think whoever has tried powerful
and elegance – you can have a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz are powerful grapes, then they
should definitely try Malbec. It’s different, but it shares this power but it’s still elegant.
It’s a very refined grape to try. Nicole: When I think of the spice in this
wine, it makes me think of spicy food, so is it fair to say that this would be a good
pairing with something spicy? Philippe: Food is always challenging with
wine. There are some dishes that do not go well with wine so you have to pick the right
ones. And for Malbec, any red meat and any dish that is spicy works well. So it could
even be chicken. You say chicken is not red meat, yes, but if you add spices to the chicken,
chillis or whatever or Indian food, it goes very well with Malbec. Nicole: Well let’s give it a try. Philippe: Yes, cheers. Nicole: Cheers. End segment 1. Nicole: Tell me a little bit about the terraces,
what they have in common and maybe what’s a little bit different about each one. Philippe: In the Cahors region, we have 4
terraces. The first terrace is the flood plain really beside the river. There, the grapes
give a very high production but of a low quality wine. We have no vines on that level at all.
We start on the 2nd terrace, where it’s much more sandy, well-drained, so we’ve got a lot
of nutrients there and that gives the wine more — a fruity wine. Then we come to the
3rd terrace we start finding red clay, purple clay, so that shows there’s a certain mineral
presence. Notably iron ore. So we have on the 3rd terrace much more complex tannins.
We move to the 4th, we’re really on the “causses”, the rocks. Here we have big iron ore deposits
so we get a more rounded, velvety taste from the grapes. The tannins are much more luxurious. Nicole: There’s actually quite an extensive,
competitive history here, is there not? Philippe: Yes, Cahors is one of the oldest
winemaking regions in France. And in the 1st century AD, the emperor Domitian ordered that
all the grapes in this region should be pulled out and replanted with grain because there
was a famine. Really, it was because the Roman winemakers were jealous that the French were
making better wine. Nicole: (laughing) Right okay. So, he’s trying
to eliminate his competition, take away your tools basically. Philippe: Yes. Nicole: Now you have actually created a wine,
or at least Jean-Luc Baldes has created a wine that is based on that story. Philippe: Yes. In 1976, Jean-Luc’s father
released the 1st Grand Cru in the area and he named it after Prince Probus, who was the
Roman emperor that ordered the replanting of vines in this region. Nicole: And that Probus wine is a blend of
this tier. Philippe: This tier and the 3rd terrace and
the 2nd terrace. When we blend them together, we take the best from each. This terrace brings,
as I said, the velvety tannins. And you add that to the complexity of the 3rd terrace,
which helps with the laying down of the wine. And with the 2nd terrace you’ve got the fruitiness
so you end up with the blend of a perfect wine. Nicole: Right. It’s the best of really the
3 terraces in one. And you’re actually harvesting today right? Philippe: Yes. Nicole: Okay. I think we should go have a
look and makes sure they’re working hard. Philippe: They should be. BREAK Nicole: Now you decided this morning that
you were actually going to pick this afternoon. What’s your decision making process? Richard: It’s a complicated process based
on the ripeness of the grape and the weather forecast. For the grape, we look at, first
of all the bloom, we taste it to see if it’s the right acidity balance, sugar and tannins.
And then we have to look at the weather to see we’re going to have the right amount of
sun or rain and that can change everything. Nicole: Can we have a look at a bunch? Richard: Ok. Take a few right here. Nicole: Thank you. What’s the first thing
you’re looking for? Richard: The bloom shows the ripeness, the
blue dust if you like. And underneath you see the color of the grape, a nice deep color.
The skin is very clear. Nicole: So that it’s a consistent, rich color? Richard: Yes and then from that, also you
can tell the juice inside. It’s plump. Nicole: Definitely. Richard: And then we taste it. Nicole: The fun part. And now what are you
looking for? Richard: In tasting them, you can get in the
juice, the sugar and acidity balance. And you bite through the pips to see if the tannins
are ready, not too green, not too astringent. Nicole: The “pips” being the seeds. And they
are actually not bitter. Because at other times of the year they are, they’re quite
green. Richard: They’re very green. Nicole: And what about the skin? Should it
be crisp, should it be soft? Richard: It should be crisp. It should pop
in your month. Nicole: Okay. Now what factors are you trying
to keep in mind with the weather at this point in your harvest? Richard: Well really we’re looking for sunny
weather. Rain at this point would be more difficult for us because we’re at the point
where we’re looking for optimum ripeness, a dryness for the picking. Too much water
is bad and also can lead to problems with mildew and other sicknesses that can come
from the damp weather. Nicole: And too much water can actually almost
drown out the sugar? Richard: Too much water when we’re harvesting
would then go into the fermentation and would cause problems. Nicole: You’ve also decided that you’re going
to pick in the afternoon. What difference does that make as compared to early in the
morning? Richard: Early in the morning in certain cases,
there’s a small cover of fog… Nicole: …which is beautiful. Richard: …and therefore humidity. Richard: It’s beautiful when we see it from
high but for picking certain wines, you want to eliminate too much humidity. Nicole: If you were to pick earlier in the
morning when it’s colder, what would happen to the final blend? Richard: What would happen is that there’s
certainly more moisture on the grapes. We end up with a kind of condensation and then
has knock on effects on the fermentation. Nicole: Do you use machines? You hand harvest
everything? Richard: We hand harvest a certain part of
the vineyard. For the Probus, for the Black Wine, we hand pick because that way we’re
able to ensure that we are picking the best grapes. Nicole: Now you mention this Black Wine, which
is something that is quite unique in the world. So tell me a little bit about that wine. Richard: It comes from a middle age recipe
because in the 13th century, the Cahors was exported to Britain. It was actually the wine
for the marriage of Henry the II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. But to survive the sea voyage
at that time, they had to fortify it so in the middle ages they used to take half of
the harvest and they’d heat it in a cauldron and then they’d mix it together to bring out
the sugars and slightly more alcohol. Nicole: And to protect it from the travel. Richard: And protect it from the travel. So
Jean-Luc Baldes, he found a recipe and wanted to marry it with modern vinification methods
to make a kind of homage to the past but with definitely a modern taste to it. Nicole: Let’s go have a taste. Richard: Ok. Nicole: How would you describe this wine to
somebody in terms of flavors and aromas? Richard: Aromas, we definitely find plum,
red fruits, black current, blackberry, very jammy aroma. Nicole: And a little bit of pepper. What would
you eat with this? Richard: My personal favorite is a bar of
good chocolate. Nicole: Okay. Richard: 75%. Nicole: That specific? Richard: Yes. Nicole: But it smells like a wine that could
really stand on its own as well. Richard: Yes, it can stand on its own as a
wine to be drunk. Toute Seule! Nicole: Toute Seule. Well not that I’d complain
about having a bar of chocolate either. Richard: Okay. Nicole: Santé. Richard: Santé. End Nicole: Jean, you have quite a unique, maybe
somewhat unique philosophy on how you use oak to age your wines. Jean: Absolutely, because we are not thinking
that oak makes good wines, but it helps. And we are looking at the complexity coming from
the oak barrels that blend with the wine itself. Nicole: Okay. Now you have 2 different wines,
the Chateau Lagrezette and the Pigeonnier that have been aged 18 months for one and
28 months for the other? Jean: 18 months for the Chateau, 28 for the
Pigeonnier, but the wines are different because the Pigeonnier is a lot more complex maybe
than the Chateau and it’s a 100% Malbec, when Chateau Lagrezette is at least 85% Malbec,
and some Merlot. Nicole: So with the Chateau Lagrezette – 85%
Malbec,15 % Merlot, roughly. You use the merlot to soften the tannic elements? Jean: The Malbec itself and to give to that
Malbec a little bit more complexity okay. Now Pigeonnier is different of course because
the yield is lower so the wine stands by itself. Nicole: Okay, the yield is lower meaning you
have less grapes per vine and you actually do something called a green harvest where
you intentionally cut away some of the early grapes. Jean: Yes, yes. In August, yes. Nicole: To decrease the number of grapes per
vine because that actually creates a better grape. Jean: Maybe it brings more complexity as I
was saying to the grapes themselves. And good grapes make good wine. That’s the philosophy
behind. Nicole: Right. It all starts in the vineyard. Jean: Yes, it starts in the vineyard absolutely. BREAK Nicole: Now Jean, how would you describe the
Chateau Lagrezette, your 1st wine? How would you describe that taste? Jean: Strong because it’s Malbec, quite complex,
with a lot of small red fruits. Nicole: Okay. Jean: But Chateau Lagrezette and Pigeonnier
have to be as elegant and refined as possible. This is our goal. Nicole: So there are lots of red fruits, small
black fruits, red fruits, dark fruits… Jean: Plums. Nicole: Maybe Licorice. Jean: Licorice, anise. Vanilla coming from
the barrels. Jean: The barrels are mainly bringing more
complexity to the wine and it helps. They help to soften the wine. There is some micro
oxygenation between the inside and the outside. Nicole: So the oxygen coming into the barrel
helps soften the wine a bit. Because a lot of people would probably think that keeping
it in oak for so long would make it taste a bit oakier, but in fact you’re saying it’s
the opposite. Jean: The oaky taste shouldn’t cover the wine
itself. It should just bring some complexity to the wine. In no way should you taste the
oak and not the wine. Nicole: I want to try this one because this
is the Pigeonnier and this has been- Jean: This is your glass. Nicole: Merci. Jean: This is the Pigeonnier 2009. Nicole: And this has been in the barrel for
almost 12 months? Jean: And it should spend maybe 16 or 18 more
months. We shall see because we taste quite often. So the more we taste, the more we know
about the wine. Nicole: How would you describe this wine which
has been in here for 28 months, will have been in here for 28 months. How does it compare
to the Lagrezette? Jean: Very strong, very elegant, soft. A lot
of potential, full body. Nicole: And what would you eat with it? What’s
your favorite? Jean: I would eat some game or foie gras,
hearty food. Nicole: Stews. Jean: Red meats. Nicole: Red meats, okay. And earthy like mushrooms. Jean: Absolutely yes. So this is the Pigeonnier.
One year old. It’s very strong. Nicole: Obviously there are dark fruits. Jean: Dark fruits, yes. Since it’s so young,
you get the aromas coming from the Malbec. A few months from now it will be different
because there will be the whole blend there will between the wine making process, the
grape, the fruits and the oak aging. Nicole: Right. Okay. Jean: Always think about the balance and the
combination between all the different things. Nicole: Now, another question, with oak you’ve
obviously got to, with a 28 month aging you’ve obviously got to store the wine longer, you’ve
got to buy new barrels. It’s an expense to you. Jean: Very expensive, but we are talking here
about premium wines. Top quality wines of course. Nicole: And it’s a bit of a risk, is it not? Jean: Yes, mainly in the vineyards because
the yield is very low so if we had a storm or anything of that kind, we could lose a
lot, we could lose the whole production. Nicole: Risky business. Jean: Risky business, but I think the results
are quite good. Do you enjoy? Do you like it? Nicole: I will give it a try. Jean: Ok. Nicole: I know it’s only been in here for
12 months but it doesn’t even – it’s astringent, you can taste the tannins, but it is still
smooth. Nicole: Very smooth. And this is without the
Merlot. Jean: There will not be any Merlot in these
barrels. But remember, oak doesn’t make good wines. It just helps to bring more complexity
to the wine. Nicole: Okay. Good note. Merci. Jean: Merci. Nicole: Santé.


Jake Cake

Feb 2, 2015, 8:03 am Reply

Very enjoyable!

Khem Dhakal

Mar 3, 2016, 9:15 pm Reply



Sep 9, 2016, 9:05 am Reply

Mi nombre es malbec e pedido en caso de accidente mi grupo sanguíneo es 0 positivo o malbec no otro. …pueden matarme.

Teguh Suryadi

Nov 11, 2016, 12:33 pm Reply

good video but would be best if better music XD

Marvin ø

May 5, 2017, 6:08 am Reply

What kind of glasses are those at around 5:00?

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