Forlorn in France, Flourishing in the New World? Malbec! #Winophiles

Do you know these 13 French indigenous grapes?

These are just a few of the French indigenous grapes that are considered “god-forsaken” in a book with the same title which is the theme for this month’s #Winophiles. The book also includes wines from other old world locations, like Italy, the Alps, and Iberia including gewurztraminer, godello, kerner, lagrein, ribolla gialla (which we will be writing about in March along with refosco and schioppettino), schiava, silvaner, sagrantino, and turbiana, I think I need to do that paperwork for the Century Club and get credit for having tasted and written about so many wines!

Seriously, depending on when you began your wine journey and how seriously you’ve taken it, I’ll bet you’ve heard of at least a few of them, and you’ve probably enjoyed a few of them as well. You can also see that we’ve written about most of them, either from the Old or the New World– check out the articles in the links highlighted above to learn more about the wines and what to pair with them. I am very grateful for the samples that have come my way and that Wine House LA has such an excellent selection and prices and they are only 60 miles away! (Of course that 60 miles takes from 90 to 200 minutes to travel…)

While some of them are admittedly obscure, you, like me, may be wondering why these wines are godforsaken other than the alliteration of “godforsaken” and “grapes.” may have noticed by now that I love alliteration but is that a good enough reason for a title of a book? What I have read is very well written, however!

Because while they may not be that well known or grown outside of a small area in France, some of these grapes have found huge success in other terroirs– like in the New World for petit sirah (which I’ve written about extensively) and even more so, Malbec which is wildly successful and widely grown in the south American country of Argentina but flourishing  in California, Oregon, and Washington as well.

The theme for this month’s #Winophiles, hosted by Culinary Cam, focuses on the indigenous and specifically “godforsaken grapes” of France highlighted in the book, so we decided it would be interesting to compare Malbec aka Cot from Cahors with Malbec from California and Argentina.

Is  there a reason why cot aka malbec is “forlorn” and considered “godforsaken”  in France and yet is flourishing in the New World? How do wines from North and South America compare to those in France?

A few years ago for Malbec Day, we compared eight Malbec from four countries. On another occasion, we compared five from five regions: OR, WA, CA, France, and Argentina paired with bacon wrapped pork loin. In October 2019 the Winophiles did Cahors and we brought one sample with us to France to pair and taste which you can read about here; the two French wines we are writing about in this post came from that set of samples.

Today we decided to resurrect Malbec by sampling and pairing two from Cahors, where it originated and is called “cot” compared with one from North America, specifically Lodi, California, and one from Argentina, specifically high altitude Salta.

And we decided to pair the four wines with flavors from the Americas and from France to see how they fare!

Both Sue and I are big fans of Malbec no matter where it is from! In the past we have paired Malbec with traditional Argentinean foods and out of all of the wines on the list it was the one that surprised us the most to see. This time we decided to do Argentinean for appetizers and a French main course of duck with home canned cherries.  From France, one is in conversion to organic which is 100% malbec, the other has 10% tannat. From Argentina, it has a little tannat and even less petit verdot while the California one is 100% Malbec.

  • 2016  Chateau Lamartine  Cahors France
  • 2017 Amalaya Malbec Salta, Argentina
  • 2009  Cantara Cellars Malbec Clements Hills, Lodi, CA
  • 2018  Chateau de Gaudou  “Le Sang de Ma Terre”  Malbec, Cahors France
  • Cheese plate
    Blue cheese, mushroom brie, Morrocan spiced almonds, cured sausage, jerk spice aged cheddar, blueberry goat cheese
  • Empanadas
    Potato cheese, Potato meat from Tatainas
  • Main Course
    French Winter Squash casserole, roasted brussels sprouts, seared duck breast with shallot cherry red wine sauce (adapted from here; main change was using home canned cherries instead of dried ones)

French Winter Squash Casserole adapted from here 


  • 6 T Olive oil
  • 1 large shallot thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds butternut or other winter squash; peeled, seeded, diced
  • 1/4 c Water
  • 1/2 C Cream or half-and-half
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 C Breadcrumbs
  • variations: nutmeg, herbs, different hard cheese like Gruyere


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot over medium flame.
  3. Add the shallot and saute until wilted and translucent, 5 minutes.
  4. Add the winter squash or pumpkin and the water, cover tightly and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the squash is soft.
  5. Mash with a potato masher until smooth.
  6. Beat the cream or half and half and eggs together and stir into the squash, along with the salt and pepper and half of the Parmesan cheese.
  7. Place the squash into a greased or buttered casserole dish.
  8. Top with the remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs.
  9. Drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  10. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through and browned on top.

Note: While our families went crazy for this dish (seriously new favorite and so easy!) we have been trying to get meds into our dog; he got hit by a car and he quickly decided he’d rather not eat that have meds slipped into him. BUT this is working brilliantly! Good thing we have plenty more squash and pumpkin!

2016  Chateau Lamartine  Cahors – 13.5% alcohol
90% Malbec, 10% Tannat
sample for my review consideration

Color:  Very dense, garnet, red plum to violet rim

Nose:  Funky, sulphur, dirt, earth, blue fruit, iris, moist forest floor, violets, leather, tobacco

Palate:  Bold tannins and minerals, tart fruit, Sue was thinking rhubarb or plum skin, maybe sour cherry, the wine however is not very fruity, red currant, it is a bit bitter on the back end  with a chalky finish, which kind of grips the back of the throat. Sue really craved food with this wine.

Pairing:  Super versatile! It’s fun with the blueberry goat cheese– what a great pairing! It tames the tannins in the wine, while enhancing the blue berries, plus it went well with the empanadas and the sauces. I could not handle the jalapeños in the green sauce, but Sue found it to be divine with the wine. Great with the cured sausages, it loves the spices in the morracan nuts, the earthiness in the mushroom brie was a heavenly pairing.

Our overall favorite of the appetizer plate was the blueberry goat cheese and the Moroccan nuts. That would be a perfect end to a meal when paired with Chateau Lamartine.

With the main course Chateau Lamartine was so great with the squash dish. We imagined the wine earlier with a quiche, so it works here as well. Fantastic with the roast brussels sprouts. With the duck, it showcased the richness and the fattiness of the duck, but fought a bit with the cherries in the sauce. Press materials suggest duck as a pairing but perhaps prepared in a different way would be better. They also say the wine can be laid down from 4-12 years and we could definitely see it improving with age.


2017 – Amalaya – Malbec – Salta, Argentina – 13.9%
sample for my review consideration

Grown at 5,900 feet above sea level, this wine is a blend of 85% Malbec, 10% Tannat, 5% Petitie Verdot.

Color: Dense, but not as dense as the Chateau Lamartine, more violet than red, with a pale fuchsia rim

Nose: Blueberry preserves and a bit of sulphuric funk, mossy river,

Palate: Blueberry, good acidity, nice earth, vitality on the palate, dried blueberries covered with cocoa. Soft leathery tannins. This is an easy to drink for wine by the glass. Wine by the bottle should carry through from start to finish with the right menu.

Pairing: Because we enjoyed the blueberry goat cheese so much with the Chateau Lamartine, that is where we wanted to start with the Amalaya, but it was not so good.

Delicious with the empanadas, and their sauces: no surprise here! When you pair the food of the region with the wine of the region, it is usually a hit.

We had a super strong blue cheese on our plate and it brought out a nice fruit in the wine. Super strong blue on a grilled steak would be the perfect companion with the wine. With this wine I wanted to dive into the duck first. I was pretty happy, the fruit and the rich duck went well with the Amalaya. We both agreed. It works with the squash dish as well, but is far better with the duck. It is also a hit with the roasted brussels sprouts, being one of Sue’s favorites of the evening. The char in the veggie works so well with the fruit in the wine.

now what goes with what?

2009 – Cantara Cellars – Malbec – Clements Hills – Lodi – California – 14.1% alcohol Unavailable; This wine was a gift to Sue from Cantara’s owners. 

Color: Raspberry, like a raspberry puree from a dessert dish. It is a little brickish, like cherry cola, but still vibrant for a 10 year old wine from Lodi.

Nose:  Blue fruit, cherry, some alcohol, cinnamon, cardamon, cigar box, snuff, cedar,

Palate:  Blue fruit, very smooth mouth feel, ripe bing cherry on the finish, easily assessable, who needs food. It is impressive the amount of tannins, acidity and fruit for the age of the wine. A wine with great character.

Pairing:  Blue cheese also brings out luscious fruit in the wine, think blue cheese grilled onion burger in a nice bun, It was just ho hum with the cured meat. I really, really liked the Moroccan nuts, the spices were a perfect compliment. The jalapeño sauce didn’t do much for Sue, she felt the chimicurri sauce was perfect with the wine. This wine likes spices, we had an aged cheddar on the plate with jerk spices, and both found it to be an incredible pairing. The wine with the mushroom brie was also amazing the creamy richness of the cheese, brightens the fruit in the wine bringing out a wonderful vitality. I am so impressed with this wine. The flavors, the versatility. Fabulous also with the blue berry goat cheese. The brussels sprouts were a bit to peppery for the wine taking away the fruit in it but not diminishing the texture in either. Cantara Malbec loves the nutmeg and the custard texture of the squash dish, but is just alright as a pair for the flavor profile.

This was fantastic with the duck and cherry sauce. This is a pairing that you would find in a boutique restaurant.

There is a reason to lay down your Malbec! Maybe this is why it is so maligned?


2018 – Chateau de Gaudou – Le Sang de Ma Terre – Malbec – Cahors – 13.5% alcohol SRP 18 euros
100% Malbec
Available in the US; sample for my review consideration

Winemaker Fabrice Durou is the 7th generation of the family working the Gaudou vineyard, and he’s been at it for almost 20 years. The property extends over 70 hectares, mainly on the third terraces but also on the limestone plateau of the AOC Cahors.
“Free to learn, free from the land, free to create, free to be oneself: this is the winegrower’s motto.”

As a writer, I love that according to press materials, “This cuvée is a duo between a winegrower and a writer, from the same “Earth”. Jean-Pierre Alaux, the author of the series Le Sang de la vigne * dreamed of an exceptional vintage. With Fabrice Durou, they developed it in concert with their passion for wine.”

Grapes were mechanically harvested with an integrated sorting table, then using natural yeasts and sulphur-free fermentation in concrete tanks with punching down and a long maceration (about 3 weeks). Maturation in porous egg-shaped vats, including “sandstone” ceramics, to allow movement of oxygen in and out.

Color:  Super dense and dark, you cannot see the bottom of your glass, Dracula’s blood, deep dark dense violet, with a maroon rim

Nose:  Florals and fruit, this wine is in your face. From the nose, we would have thought this was a new world wine, even a California wine. Like being in a flowering orchard, faint cherry pipe tobacco

Palate:  Blue fruit and cherries, violets, pastilles, limestone and chalk, For how sweet this wine is on the nose, it is not that at all on the palate, big tannins. While we enjoyed sipping and contemplating the nuances of this wine, we could not wait to have it with some foods.

Pairing:  I did not care for the wine with the blue cheese, maybe a creamier or milder blue cheese would work. Sue did not seem to mind it as much. The cured meat made everything mild. The wine went mild and the meat went mild; nothing was enhanced. Sue liked the empanadas with the jalapeño sauce. She felt both the food and the wine were enhanced when paired together. I can’t go there because jalapeño just does not work with my palate. She felt the chimichurri sauce was just ok.

Moroccan nuts and the mushroom brie? BAM! out of the park!

The squash gratin was perfect with this wine. The parmesan cheesy bites enhanced the fruit in the wine. The nutmeg in the dish also went quite well with Chateau de Gaudou. The bites with the toasted crusty parmesan top and the nutmeg was the best.  The char from the roasted brussels sprouts which was so fantastic with the other wines was just alright with the Chateau de Gaudou. It wasn’t bad, but was more like a bittersweet combination. If you like bittersweet chocolate you may appreciate the combination.

The best of all was the duck dish with the wine. It loved the fatty richness of the wine, and the lovely cherry sauce.

Much Maligned Malbec? The bottom line is, Cahors Cot aka Malbec really seems to need food to tame the tannins while the fruitiness of the New World wines worked well for a New World palate that wants a wine to work before, during, and after dinner.

Other participants this month are writing about:

Our twitter chat is held from 8-9am Pacific time and we will be discussing the following:

2/15/2020 11:00 a.m. EST  

Welcome to the #Winophiles chat on #GodforsakenGrapes! Introduce yourself, and where you are tweeting from. Share a link to your blog if applicable.


2/15/2020 11:07 a.m. EST

Q1 So we are talking about #GodforsakenGrapes this morning for today’s #Winophiles, February’s event. When you read the term ‘godforsaken grapes’ tell us what first popped into your head.


2/15/2020 11:14 a.m. EST 

Q2 Host @Culinary_Cam was inspired to host after reading @boozecolumnist’s book by the same title – #GodforsakenGrapes. We discussed this in Jan’s #WinePW, today we’re looking specifically at French varietals. Have you read the book? If so, did you find it inspiring? #Winophiles


2/15/2020 11:21 a.m. EST 

Q3 Why do you think that some varietals are forgotten and/or used less than others and become #GodforsakenGrapes? Are the important factors on the producers’ side? The consumers’ side? Or a combination of both? Any factors specific to France? #Winophiles


2/15/2020 11:28 a.m. EST 

Q4 What indigenous or #GodforsakenGrapes varietal did you pick to pour today? Share a link to your blog if you wrote a post for #Winophiles. Was it a new-to-you wine? Or had you had it before? Thoughts??


2/15/2020 11:35 a.m. EST 

Q5 What did you serve with your #GodforsakenGrapes wine? Was it a traditional French dish? How did the pairing fare? How did the flavors in the food complement your wine? Share a link to your blog if you wrote on the topic today. #Winophiles


2/15/2020 11:42 a.m. EST 

Q6 If you didn’t make any food for this month’s #Winophiles, what DID you pair with your #GodforsakenGrapes wines? Thinking of cheese pairings, perhaps. Or desserts?! There are so many amazing French cheeses to be found! How did the flavors in the food complement your wine?


2/15/2020 11:49 a.m. EST 

Q7 How difficult was it for you to locate your French indigenous or #GodforsakenGrapes pick? Was it available at a local shop? Or did you source your bottle online? #Winophiles Any recommendations for us to use would be appreciated.


2/15/2020 11:50 a.m. EST [remove your own handle if the tweet is too long!]

Shoutout to the #Winophiles bloggers who posted about French indigenous or #GodforsakenGrapes. @foodwineclick @WendyKlik @linda_lbwcsw @ArtPredator @cookingchat @asiantestkitchn @tsteffes @pairchifoodwine @sommstable @CrushGrapeChron @Culinary_Cam

2/15/2020 11:57 a.m. EST 

Q8 #Winophiles Any final thoughts about French indigenous or #GodforsakenGrapes? Did you learn something new? Are you inspired to track down a new-to-you wine? If so, which one(s)? Do tell!


2/15/2020 11:59 a.m. EST 

Next month #Winophiles will be focusing on Crémant de Bordeaux / Sparkling wine from Bordeaux with @pairchifoodwine of Chinese Food and Wine Pairings hosting. Can’t wait to see the invitation.



17 thoughts on “Forlorn in France, Flourishing in the New World? Malbec! #Winophiles

  1. Malbec is one of those wines we can find in the “cheap” bins. I am so surprised that it made this list. However, I was intrigued by your post and learned a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

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