Saturday, October 19, 2013

2009 Chateau Reces Malbec – Cahors AOC, France

As most wine lovers know, Malbec is a minor player amongst the 6 Bordeaux varietals (the others being Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carménère) as it rarely makes its way into a blend. Consequently most people associate this grape with the Mendoza region of Argentina where it is THE major red grape. Americans have been going gaga over Argentinean Malbecs for quite some time as the wines are easy to pronounce, they tend to be very fruit forward, and quality wines are affordable. In fact, prior to tasting the 2009 Chateau Reces Malbec the only ones I had ever tasted were either from California or Argentina.

The best Argentinean Malbec I have ever tasted was the 2009 Capataz Malbec, imported by Darioush in in the Napa Valley, which sold for $48. But I have had many other Argentinean Malbecs for under $20, but none worth raving about. The best Californian Malbec was the 2009 Casali Malbec from Crocker & Starr which sold for $72.

The distinctive note in both of Argentinean and Californian Malbec wines which make them scream “I’M A MALBEC!” is the upfront and in-your-face blueberry aromas.

Cahors AOC

Cahors is an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) which forms part of the South West France (in French often Sud-ouest) wine region near the town of Cahors. This region has 10,000 acres of vineyards, the dominant grape variety being Malbec which is known locally as “Côt”, “Côt Noir” or “Auxerrois”. A wine labeled Cahor AOC must contain at least 70% of Malbec and it is typically supplemented with up to 30% of Merlot and/or Tannat.

Chateau Reces – A Fictitious Winery?

I searched the Internet and cannot find any mention of a Chateau Reces other than on the BevMo web site so this is probably a non-existent winery. On the back label in very small print Chateau Chambert Vigneron is mentioned who more actually made the wine. They either are selling it under a second label or the wine was made by them and then purchased for export by the fictitious Chateau Reces who then imported it to the USA by Exclusive Imports, Inc Beverly Hills CA.

But what does this wine’s back label indicate? Note that it states “Mis en bouteille au Chateau Chambert sca vigneron-récoltant.” Unless you can read French you have no idea who actually made the wine. In French this means, “Bottled at the Chateau Chambert who is the winemaker-grower.” 

It is not uncommon for a winemaker (vigneron) to make a wine from excess juice, or less than perfect grapes, and then sell it under another name or to someone else (such as an importer/exporter) who then bottles it under a fictitious name. Many of the inexpensive wines that are sold at Trader Joes fall into this category. The front label has the name of the so-called winery who is credited with bottling, aging or cellaring (but not producing) the wine. The back label will indicate “Cellared and Bottled by…” or “Vinted and Bottled by…” which means that the they made less than 10% of the wine and possibly did not make any of the wine. If it says “Made and Bottled by…” it means that they made, fermented and finished at least 10% of the wine. If the back label says, “Produced and Bottled by…” it indicates that they fermented and finished at least 75% of the wine.

Note: Ignore the tasting notes on the back label, they’re worthless.

The Wine

The 2009 Chateau Reces Malbec is a blend of 85% Malbec and 15% Merlot. It is clear, dark purple at the core, has very little rim variation and it stains the glass when swirled. 

On the nose it has medium intense aromas with the Malbecian telltale signature of blueberries up front followed by dark cherries and dusty dark chocolate. I would never guess that this wine is anything but Malbec and I was expecting the Merlot to lighten up the blueberry notes, but it didn’t. On the palate the wine is bone dry with astringent chewy tannins. This is an indicator that it is Old World and from Cahor and not New World from Argentina or California which tend to be soft, silky and sweet like blueberry pie. It has medium acidity, medium complexity with medium weight and body and a medium length finish. There is nothing about this wine that says “WOW!” so if you are accustomed to really BIG Malbecs that have a lot of body and overbearing fruit this wine will seem underwhelming. This wine sells for $29.95 but I got it for $15 as part of a “Buy 1, get 1 for 5 cents” sale at BevMo and it is just a descent everyday wine for that price.

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