The 2009 JP Chenet Cahors Malbec is a $9.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive, though other JP Chenet wines are available elsewhere. JP Chenet is the largest seller of French wines in the world and most of their sales are export, they do not sell much wine in France. JP Chenet has long term contacts (they have been doing business with some growers for over 20 years) with vineyards in all of France’s grape growing regions. Cahors is the French home of single varietal Malbec wines. Malbec at one time was commonly planted in Bordeaux as a blending grape, but repeated insect infestations and/or frost decimated the Malbec crop once too often, and now, while it is still planted in Bordeaux, it is not common. Malbec from Argentina seems to be a different variety of the Malbec grape than the grapes currently grown in Cahors and Bordeaux, the Argentinean grapes may be descendants of Malbec grapes that were destroyed by a phylloxera epidemic in Bordeaux. Cahors Malbec used to be big, tannic, stain your teeth kind of wines, but innovations in the vineyards and modern winemaking techniques allow the Cahors Malbec to be balanced, fruit forward wines. JP Chenet wine bottles are an homage to the days of handblown wine bottles, with a dimple in the side and a slightly curved, elongated neck, it looks like the kind of wine bottles that Pirates drank out of. The alcohol content is 13.5%, in many countries wine is taxed by its alcohol content, it is in the winemakers benefit to have a low %, so the alcohol content listed on the bottle may be lower than the actual number.
The color is a dark black cherry red with black highlights, it is not called the Black Wine of Cahors for nothing. The nose is stewed plums and savory herbs and olives, along with licorice and extracted blackberry. It is only a 2009 vintage, but it tastes like it has been cellared since 2004, the flavors are mingled together into a fine stew. It tastes of dark berries and plums, mixed with dark chocolate and Sambuca. The mid palate adds some raisin spice, a slap of dusty tannins, along with figs. This is a very dry wine and surprisingly “Old World” for an export wine. This a very balanced Malbec, with lip smacking acidity, which allows it to pair well with food and causes the finish to hang on for a very long time.
The 2009 JP Chenet Cahors Malbec is no Argentinean Malbec copycat. This is a dark, brooding wine with bold flavors that not everybody is going to enjoy, a fruit bomb it isn’t. Still, if you are a Malbec fan, this is a wine that I recommend you try, it probably is not what you are used to, so therefore it will expand your knowledge of what a Malbec wine can be. The one thing about wine that I have learned, is the you do not gain anything by only drinking wines you are comfortable with. And hats off to JP Chenet for exporting an inexpensive wine from France, that actually tastes French.