by Fred McMillin
for April 7, 1999


Where Cot Hits the Spot


Cot, or Malbec, as it is more often known by wine drinkers, produces a sort of watered-down rustic version of Merlot...Such a status does nothing to enhance its status in the eyes of the world's connoisseurs.

...Jancis Robinson on the Cot in Bordeaux, 1986

In Argentina the Cot or Malbec has changed over time, adapted to its regional environment, and is now capable of yielding a complex red wine, balanced and long-lived.

...Prof. H. De Bliz, Wine Regions of the Southern Hemisphere, 1985 In Argentina, the Malbec has far more potential than Cabernet Sauvignon.

...Hugh Johnson, 1997 Pocket Encyclopedia of Wine

Santa Julia Winery  
The Rest of the Story

Now, we've got a Cot that proves Hugh's point. But first, how did the grape get from France to Argentina?

The country made its first wines from the Mission and the Muscat grapes, after the Jesuits brought the vine back around 1560. It took nearly 300 years for the Malbec to arrive. First, the descendant of a Basque family, Silvestre Errazuriz, brought the Malbec to Chile in 1851. Within a few decades, the Cot had crossed the Andes, led by the efforts of Governor Tiburcio Benegas. The ladies deserve some credit here, since Hugh Johnson tells us Don Benegas had no interest in wine until he married the daughter of a progressive landowner in 1870. During the next 100 years, Cot clearly became the nation's best wine grape. Here's a fine example.

Wine of the Day

1996 Malbec Oak Reserve, Mendoza, Argentina
Santa Julia Winery
Composition—100% Malbec
Harvested in the third week of September?—Hardly. We're talking South America. Harvest was in the third week alright, but in March 1996.
Aging—New French oak; 10 months
Tasting Notes—Both the oak and the grape show nicely in the nose and mouth. Gentle tannins. Drink now.
Rating—HIGHLY RECOMMENDED in its price range.
Contact—Yale Sager, (847) 679-0121
Price—$10 range


Argentina's love affair with Cot is reflected in my 1995 U.C.-Davis winemaking tome showing that of all the world's Malbec, Argentina grows about 70% of it.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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