The red grape variety comes from France. There are around 130 synonyms that testify to its presumably great age and wide distribution in Europe and overseas. The most important ones are Agreste, Auxerrois, Auxerrois des Moines de Picpus, Beraou, Blanc de Kienzheim, Bouchalès, Bouyssales, Cahors, Cau, Cauly, Coly, Coq Rouge, Cor, Cors, Cos, Côt, Cot a Queue Verte, Cot de Bordeaux, Cot de Pays, Cot de Touraine, Cot Malbec, Cots, Cruchinet, Doux Noir, Estrangey, Étranger, Grifforin, Gros Noir, Grosse Mérille, Hourcat, Jacobain, Jacobin, Jacohin, Lutkens, Malbec, Malbec à Queue Rouge, Malbeck, Mancin, Monrame, Pied de Perdrix, Pressac, Noir de Chartres, Noir de Pressac, Prunelat, Prunieral, Quercy, Quille de Coqu, Vesparo(France); Malbech(Italy); Cagors, Nuar de Presac(Moldova); Malbec, Malbeck(South America); Médoc Noir (former Hungary).
Although it appears to have synonyms or morphological similarities, it should not be confused with the varieties Abouriou (Malbec Argenté), Bouchalès, Canari Noir, Mancin, Menoir, Négrette or Prunelard. It is also not a colour mutation of the white variety Auxerrois. DNA analyses carried out by Jean-Michel Boursiquot in 2009 showed that Cot originated from a presumed cross between Magdeleine Noire des Charentes and Prunelard. And from a cross between Folle Blanche x Cot resulted Jurançon Noir. Cot was a crossbreeding partner of the new varieties Cabernet Malbec, Caladoc, Odola and Semebat.
According to one hypothesis, the vine was introduced in the 16th century under King François I. (1494-1547), the vine was imported from Cahors (south-west France) and cultivated in the Champagne region. A certain Malbeck spread the vine widely in Bordeaux in the 18th century and thus coined the name Malbec, which is common here and overseas. In Saint-Émilion, it is also named Pressac after a person unknown who spread the vine in this area. And in the west of France it is mostly called Cot or Côt.
The medium ripening vine is sensitive to frost, as well as to downy mildew, black spot disease and trickle. It produces dark-coloured, fruity-spicy, alcohol-rich red wines with a variety of aromas of plums, blueberries, spices, dark chocolate and tobacco. Cot belongs to the extended circle of the world's best grape varieties, the Cépages nobles. In France, the vine is registered in the main growing area of Cahors with 70% in many other appellations in southwest France and Languedoc. It is also an ingredient in Bordeaux blending, but has lost importance here (900 ha today compared to 5,000 ha at the end of the 1960s). The total French area under cultivation in 2010 was 6,123 hectares.
Other smaller stocks in Europe were found in Italy (260 ha), Moldavia (39 ha), Romania (7 ha), Spain (93 ha), Switzerland (10 h), Turkey (13 ha) and Hungary (1 ha). In the middle of the 19th century, the French agronomist Michel Aimé Pouget (1821-1875) introduced it to Argentina, where it found ideal conditions especially in the Mendoza region and was therefore cultivated on a large scale. In 2010, under Malbec, it covered a total of 31,047 hectares of vineyards, making it the most common Argentine variety.
In California it was of great importance before prohibition (1920 to 1933), but today it only occupies 600 hectares. Here it is included in the famous Opus One. Other overseas populations were found in Australia (356 ha), Bolivia, Brazil (37 ha), Chile (1,264 ha), Canada (39 ha), Mexico, New Zealand (156 ha), Peru (10 ha), South Africa (450 ha) and Uruguay (41 ha). In 2010, the variety occupied a total of 40,663 hectares, with an extremely upward trend (ten years earlier it was 24,402 hectares). It thus occupied 21st place in the worldwide grape variety ranking.
Source: Wine Grapes / J. Robinson, J. Harding, J. Vouillamoz / Penguin Books Ltd. 2012
Pictures: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)