706 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2019
found throughout the château grounds. We spent an enjoyable morning
there on a private tour.
We saw many Roman-era structures in southern France, and winemaking
in Cahors also stretches back to Roman times. However, the area made its
reputation from the Middle Ages onward, when the area was under English
rule by the Plantagenet Kings. Its black wine was shipped across Europe
from England to Russia and was immensely popular. The barrels could be
transported down the Lot River to the Garonne and into Bordeaux for shipping
abroad. Even though the producers in Bordeaux worked hard to limit
that competition, the English in particular loved their black wine. As a
result, Cahors became a major force in French wine production, with
acreage in 1720 reaching 98,000 acres (40,000 ha). Mind you, in those days
the “noir” resulted from the grape juice being boiled down to increase the
sugar and colour. Finesse took a poor second place to a full body among consumers.
Fortunately, better tastes have prevailed in the centuries following.
But then, in the late 1800s, along with most of Europe, Cahors lost its
vineyards in the phylloxera epidemic. This American root louse, accidentally
imported on rootstock from North America, ate its way across the continent,
temporarily destroying European wine production until it was
realized that the European vinifera varieties could be grafted to North American
rootstock. The plantings have never recovered to their heyday. The
most recent census I could find was in 2000 with only 15,000 acres (6,100
ha) reported. I expect, given the rise in Malbec’s popularity in the past few
years, that it has increased.
But through serendipitous means, the Malbec variety was saved, along
with its companion, Tannat, as masses of vine cuttings had previously been
exported to South America to found the wine industries across that continent.
At the invitation of Argentina’s president, who was looking to expand
wine production, Malbec was introduced there in 1868 by a French agricultural
engineer, Michel Pouget. It was planted in large quantities in
Argentina, with lesser amounts in Chile, and Tannat became the primary
grape in Uruguay. Fortunately, phylloxera was not imported on rootstocks to
that continent. Argentina is really now the home of Malbec with some
100,000 acres (40,500 ha) planted.
The Argentine version is softer and less tannic-driven than the wines of
Cahors. Argentine Malbec wine is characterized by its deep color and
intense fruity flavors with a velvety texture. Generally, it does not have the
tannic structure of a French Malbec and is plusher in aromas and flavours.
Cahors growers apparently do not mind and cooperate with Argentine
growers in popularizing Malbec, particularly with participating in World