Country of origin: France
Berry color: Purple-black
Use(s): Wine, table
Common synonyms: Cot
Comments: The TTB-approved prime name is Malbec.
The variety’s origin is uncertain. Since the eighteenth century it has been known in southwestern France, where it is still mainly grown in that country. It is a minor variety in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. It is also grown in Italy, Argentina (where it is the third major variety), Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and California. In 1858, Charles Lefranc brought it from France to the Santa Clara Valley, as did Jean-Baptiste Portal in 1872. California acreage declined sharply in the late 1800s due to phylloxera. It was planted little thereafter until recently. Now there is renewed interest in the variety for blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and for varietal wines.
Poor fruit set is a problem in Malbec, and some vineyards may yield only 1 to 3 tons per acre. If set is good, production levels are moderate to high.
The variety is usually cordon trained and spur pruned. Low-yielding clones may benefit from cane pruning in order to increase the cluster number. Attention should be paid to adequate vine spacing to balance Malbec’s vegetative growth tendency.
Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis is the source of Foundation grapevine material for the nursery industry, and the staff can provide information about possible sources for obtaining this stock.
The National Grape Registry (NGR) contains information about varieties of wine, juice, and table grapes, raisins, and grape rootstocks available in the United States. Growers, nurseries, winemakers and researchers can find background information and source contacts for those grape varieties in this single convenient location.