Château Haut-Monplaisir is a winery located in the Cahors district of south-western France. It produces a number of different wines (all listed at their website), but their most notable products are their three single-varietal reds, which, including today’s choice, are all Malbecs.
I am going to say, at the outset, that this particular wine was not particularly impressive. I splurged a little over and above my usual budget because this bottle happened to be entry number 500 in my database of wine tasting notes, and I might not otherwise be featuring it in a post today except that it does provide a good opportunity to introduce the topic of French Malbecs …
Argentina vs. France
Let’s be honest… these days, if you are enthusiastic enough about bold red wines to be familiar with the name ‘Malbec’, you almost certainly will associate the varietal with Argentina. In point of fact, however, the Malbec grape originates in the Cahors region of south-western France, and, in order for a wine to carry the Cahors AOP/AOC designation, it must be grown in the Cahors district and be composed of no less than 70% of the Malbec varietal.
The Argentinian Malbecs, which so many people know and enjoy, are BIG wines with lots of fruit up front, velvety textured, full bodied, and usually with a pretty noticeable alcoholic punch. The Cahorsin Malbecs are, well … not…
Being ‘old world’ wines rather than ‘new worlders’, the Malbecs of Cahors (where the grapes are locally known as “Côt Noir” or “Auxerrois”), tend to be more lightly bodied and less ‘in-your-face’ than their Argentinian cousins. The dark berry and fruit components are more understated and the tannins more layered and intense, so you don’t get quite the same velvety texture as with the Argentinians.
The Tasting Notes
Today’s bottle was medium bodied and dry, with a moderate acidity, and tannins that were grippy throughout and astringent in the finish. The nose contained blackberry and cassis, along with a definite herbaceous undertone, and strong notes of cedar. On the palate, there was damson jam and sour black cherry with sorrel, leather, a faint barnyard funk, and a little licorice near the end. It was a little rough, overall (and I do not know if a few more years will improve this much), but, to be fair, it was a bit disappointing mostly because of the price. Otherwise, I quite liked it and I imagine would have rated it higher than the three stars I gave it in my database if the price had been lower.