Although it is now famous in Argentina, malbec’s ancestral home is Cahors, a tiny, ancient wine region in southwest France. Here, the wine is known as le vin noir, “the black wine,” not only because of its dark color, but also because of its severe, tannic, “dark” flavors. The word Malbec is actually a nickname for the grape’s true ampelographic name: côt. In the nineteenth century, Malbec was a slang term for someone who spoke badly of others (from the French mal, or “bad,” and bec, or “mouth”). There must have been a lot of malbecs in Cahors, for the word became a common surname – and an affectionate term for the local grapes.

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