For insight into the nature of French Malbec, which is the O.G. (original gangsta) Malbec—not Argentinean, although you’d be forgiven for thinking that—look to Cahors, a small wine region in southwestern France.
The 2015 CLOS LA COUTALE Cahors, which is 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot, at around $16 and brought to the U.S. by the importer nonpareil Kermit Lynch, is an excellent place to start. Newer wine drinkers (let’s say age 45 and below) accustomed to the rich, bold, ripe, spicy and velvety brand of Malbec popularized by Argentina and also put forth by Northern California may be surprised by the rusticity and underlying masculinity of this French Malbec.
The Clos La Coutale is a triumph of virtue—there’s real purity and authenticity here, and it apologizes for none of it. Leathery tannins? It’s called character. And don’t mind the notes of tobacco leaf, dark herbs and limestone minerality. Because the flavors of dark plum, blackberry and mulberry pie are so vibrantly fresh and natural. Add to that, a lean, soft, pillowy texture that’s so pleasing to the palate. But make no mistake—this is a dramatically dark Malbec.
The wine is an ideal pairing with just about any rustic, regional French dish you can name off the top of your head, e.g., cassoulet, pâté, steak au poivre, coq au vin, and even ratatouille. –J.M.