Malbec has to be one of the most misunderstood grapes out there. Most of the modern wine drinking world associates it with the wines of Argentina… and with good reason. Argentina, and Mendoza in particular, produces the highest quantity of Malbec wine in the world. While there are some extremely well made wines from this region, the majority of Argentinian Malbec is more value driven than anything else. The wines from this end of the earth are usually super dark and inky with plum and black fruit character and can be quite big and bold. However that is not the way all Malbec wines are crafted.
Wines produced in the motherland of Malbec (France) tend to be less fruit forward and the cooler climate imparts higher acidity and polished tannins with more floral notes, however the fruit character remains similar. While it is one of the five grapes allowed in the red wines of Bordeaux, it is Cahors where Malbec flourishes and leads to some of the finest and most ageable red wines in all of France. And no one produces a better lineup of Malbec driven wines than the folks at Chateau Lagrezette.
Of course with the dynamic duo of Alain Dominique Perrin and Michel Rolland, the most accomplished flying wine maker in the world, this should be no surprise to anyone. This year they celebrated 30 years of winemaking together at Chateau Lagrezette with a world tour featuring their wines at some of the finest restaurants throughout the world. I was lucky enough to attend this historic even at Le Bernardin in NYC, and got to chat with Mr. Rolland about a few things while we all tasted through his Chateau Lagrezzete lineup.
The night started with Le Pigeonnier Blanc, which is produced from Viogner sourced from a single vineyard within their Rocamadour vineyard. According to Michel, originally both Vigoner and Chardonnay were both planted here. But as he explains, as time went on the Chardonnay wines were just not up to snuff, while Viogner excelled. So, they let common sense do the work for them and went with all Viogner for this vineyard, as well as this particular wine. This is a stunning white wine exuding intense apricot, peach and nectarine fruit along with pretty floral notes and searing acidity from start to finish.
Next up was the 2015 Mon Vin, a 100% Malbec that was simply stunning. Production is tiny for this elegant and classy red which spends 30 months in 225 liter new French oak barrels. Smoke, leather and rose petals balance beautifully with the well developed black fruit and spice. What’s most tantalizing on just about all of their Malbec wines are the tannins. That cool climate and terroir allow them to be firm and gripping, but without crossing over to the gritty and aggressive side. They stay polished, pleasant and prolong the finish on just about every one of their reds.
While the Paragon 2012 was being served, I was able to sit next to the man himself and discuss some of the wines and what his days are like now. While he has had a hand in helping to produce hundreds to thousands of wines, these days he limits himself to only working with a small amount of his favorites… including Lagrezette of course. His pleasure derives as much from producing as it does mentoring these days, as he truly enjoys watching and teaching the younger generation of vintners in their early stages of wine making. Oh, and the Paragon is STELLAR! This is a big wine with loads of blackberry, black cherry, black pepper, lavender and smokey oak. It’s opulent and plush now, but this is one that could use another decade in the cellar to truly evolve.
As you might expect, they saved the best Malbec for last…. and it was a real treat! Alain and Michel broke out the 1998 Le Pigeonnier Malbec after 20 years of aging. Also receiving 30 months of new oak treatment, this wine has aged gracefully boasting complex aromas of roasted almonds, dried fig and cherry, leather and tobacco. Staying true to the Lagrezette style the acidity is still kicking and the tannins are simply gorgeous. While it could probably go another few years, this wine was truly drinking at its peak.
While it wasn’t served at this event, I always enjoy their entry level Purple Malbec as well. Lots of vibrant berry fruit with baking spice and lavendar, and again that wonderful combo of great acidity and supple tannins make it a wonderful everyday wine. Like all of the Malbecs from Lagrezette, it is a simply a genuine expression of what the wines of Cahors have to offer.