When the Cot grape made its way to Argentina in the 1800s, it arrived in a new wine region with a new name – Malbec. Since then Malbec has become synonymous with Argentina. Its great success worldwide means that today the name ‘Malbec’ is far better known by most wine drinkers than its original moniker ‘Cot’. But does a Malbec by any other name smell so sweet? I interviewed French winemaker in Argentina, Francois Lurton, to get his opinion on the matter. As one of the few producers who make both Cot and Malbec in Mendoza, he could shed some light on the difference in the vineyard and the final wine.
Cot vs Malbec in the vineyard and bottle
According to Lurton’s hypothesis, when the original Cot vines were brought from France to Argentina (via Chile) they would have brought the best expression of the variety – the softest, richest and most expressive. While these cuttings continued to grow and reproduce in South America, the vines in France would have been wiped out by phylloxera. Lurton believes this is where the great difference began – the French were replanting with an inferior quality Cot, whereas Argentina became a treasure trove of these supreme cuttings. The vines in Argentina also began to adapt to the warmer and sunnier conditions, which has an impact as the masal selections would pick those vines that thrived in the new climate.
In the vineyard, Cot is higher yielding, with larger berries and harsher tannins. Whereas Malbec has smaller berries butE results in wines with sweeter tannins and a red fruit expression. Tasting through samples of both grape varieties with Lurton the difference is notable, the Malbec wine is softer with a plushness of fruit whereas the Cot feels a bit greener and leaner but has a more refreshing acidity. He likes to have both in his blends for the different dimensions they offer to the wine.
Lurton Tasting Notes
L’Esprit de Chacayes 2016 – Malbec
A new release, this is stripping Lurton’s Malbec back down to basics – no oak, just pure fruit expression. Chock-full of red fruit notes with a compelling vibrancy and juiciness. This is the sort of Malbec you can drink on its own.
Chacayes 2013 – Malbec
This is the top Malbec of the winery and you can tell. It has a great density and concentration making it rich and giving it a great length, but the bright acidity gives this wine tension and holds it together nicely. There is a floral note which adds a lovely element to the otherwise berry and spice notes, which will surely develop and unravel in time. Great steak wine.
Gran Lurton Blanco 2014 – White Blend
This is one of my favourite white blends from Mendoza and was really one of the first premium white blends to stand out in Argentina. Tocai Friulano, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc, the blend changes each year but Tocai Friulano (aka. Sauvignon Vert) is usually the main component. Tropical with warm peach, fresh herbal notes and a full and aromatic finish. I also tasted the 2009 which is showing really nicely – nuttier but rich and still bright.
Gran Lurton Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
Lurton says that Cabernet is the forgotten grape in Argentina and that it makes fantastic wines. For a Bordeaux winemaker to praise Cabernet from anywhere else is a statement in itself, but this wine does all the talking for him: notes of tar, prune and dark peppery spice with wonderful length and concentration for its age.
Piedra Negra Pinot Gris Rosado 2017
Lurton sells more pink Pinot Gris than white and this, their flagship rose, is one of their best sellers. With an ever-so-delicate pink hue this is a fresh, fruity and very pretty pink.