Before we had kids, before I had even moved here full time, we found ourselves at the end of August longing for a little getaway. We got in the car with only one destination in mind to get us started the rest, much to my horror, was unplanned (is that hard for anyone else or just me?) So we set off for Cahors, home of the “vin noir” of France, Malbec.
There were a few hiccups on the trip, like the first Airbnb I booked apparently didn’t come with sheets or being turned away from a little tucked away mom and pop hotel where the restaurant smelled to die for because they were booked up. Or the restaurant in the middle of nowhere we’d longed to try, closed, as the chef was off sick. But hiccups aside, it was probably one of the best trips in memory. We still ate at a two Michelin starred restaurant, entirely by accident, I felt like I got to experience the “backcountry” of France. We got to see the history of the hundred years war at every turn, sipped great wine in unexpected places, we visited a prehistoric cave because we saw it on one of the local signs while wandering about and we even went canoeing between villages one of the days.
But now back in the present day, like most of you, we’re under lockdown. Coronacation is the word we’re all learning to accept as we all begin to adapt the staycation to our slightly more confined spaces. The day before the new rules came in place I headed to the grocery store to pick up a couple things and perused the wine aisles with my sleeping 3-month-old in the carrier (which NEVER happens, it was a dream!) A bottle of Malbec from Argentina caught my attention. It’s hard to find foreign wines here so I thought why not, but even better yet, I should get some French Malbec from Cahors and taste them side by side.
If you’ve never done this before I highly recommend it, you can learn so much by doing a side by side tasting. The first time I tried this method was with coffee but it took me years before doing it with wine. Let’s be honest, when you grow up in Canada where wine is relatively expensive and especially when you’re in University, are we really opening more than one bottle at a time on our tight budgets? It wasn’t until a trip to Burgundy, France a local caviste invited us to do this kind of comparative tasting of the local grape varietal, Pinot Noir. Two vineyards across the street could taste worlds apart and I found the experience truly fascinating because usually, I was in the habit of drinking blended wines so it made understanding the flavour of “place” quite difficult to discern. You’ll also notice with this technique you’ll be able to identify flavours a little easier if ever you’ve struggled with coming up with something more than just “fermented grape juice,” as a descriptor.
I first opened the wine from Mendoza, Argentina, you get juicy and ripe black fruits, stewed into an almost fruit roll-up kind of flavour. We smelled black cherry, quetsche plums and blackberry as well as a great sweet smokey campfire smell. It had nice acidity and really explodes in your mouth with the flavours of the plums, prunes and even a little violet. It tasted like sunbathed fruits and was very easy to drink.
Over to the Malbec from Cahors, France (French wine won’t say the grape varietal on the label but rather the name of the region so just look for Cahors and you’re good to go,) you’ll immediately notice a very different smell. It transported me immediately back to this trip and made me feel like we truly experienced the place in such a way I could now recognize the taste. You’ll smell the landscape which is rich and green and a little rustic (see a couple photos below or check out the post from our trip HERE.) On the nose we smelled a bit of wood and leather, forest floor and lots of earthiness, blackberry, licorice and light smoke (but not at all like the smokiness of the wine from Argentina which was a little more toasty than sweet…) Both had medium tannins and but this wine carried with it that earthiness, full-body, a bit more length, and while it has some of that blackberry flavour you really get more mineral qualities from this wine, it sort of reminded me of descending into the prehistoric cave we visited. It finished with a little pepper and bitterness.
So if you get a chance, pick up a bottle of Malbec from Argentina and one from France, or try another comparative tasting and let me know what you think below in the comments. This could also be a great time (or excuse) to call up some friends on Zoom, while everyone is still in quarantine, and have a virtual tasting together and share what you think about the wines. Have you done this kind of comparative tasting? Did you enjoy it? Does it interest you? Let me know!