The variety seemed to have originated in Cahors, France, and used to be the most commonly planted vine throughout the south-west of France during the Middle Ages. Vast areas under the variety, however, was destroyed during the Phylloxera outbreak between 1875 to 1889, after which the vines were replaced with other varieties that had a better affinity to the American rootstock that was imported to protect vines against phylloxera.
The area under Malbec suffered another blow during the frost of 1956, with most growers, except in Cahors, ditching it for more fashionable varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Malbec was given a second life in Argentina, when Domingo Sarmiento, who at the time was the governor of Mendoza and later became the President of Argentina, hired a French agronomist, Miguel Pouget to import vine cuttings from France.
Sarmiento wanted to build a wine industry in Argentina, that was as refined as the French’s. The the first Malbec cuttings arrived in Argentina in 1852, a few decades before the phylloxera epidemic outbreak in France. The particular imported clone, ironically, has since disappeared in France.
While the French struggled to produce Malbec, the grape thrived in the warm climatic conditions of Argentina resulting in the country becoming the major producer of the variety. Initially, most of the wine was consumed locally, but around the early 2000s the country became serious about exports and established strategies to improve and guarantee the quality of the exported product. Malbec in effect became the signature red grape of Argentina.
It is a vigorous grower with a crawling habit. Production averages between 10 t/ha to 14 t/ha. The grapes ripen mid-season, from the end of February.
Berries are black, round and of a medium size. The skin is thin and tough, while the flesh is juicy. The leaves are medium sized, of a dark green colour, round and whole to three-lobed.