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Widely planted in Bordeaux in the 1800s, the devastation caused by the vine louse phylloxera saw plantings diminish significantly.
The savage frost of 1956 then almost dealt the coup de grace with plantings further decimated and replaced by cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
More recently the variety has begun to regain favour and plantings have slowly climbed once more.
The variety may have an even longer history in Cahors in southwest France where, unusually, malbec is the dominant grape variety - appellation rules requiring a minimum of 70% malbec in the finished wine and where plantings comprise roughly 50% of the French total.
It often flies solo here, but can also be blended with tannat and other varieties.
Malbec is also found in the Loire under its synonym cot.
All these pale into comparison with Argentina, where this grape variety has become the figurehead for the local industry.
The northwestern region of Mendoza is a powerhouse of grape growing and winemaking, producing nearly three-quarters of all the wine in Argentina.
Increasing volumes are being imported here, where its modest price and generous flavours are finding many converts.
In New Zealand, it is mostly seen as the supporting act in blends such as cabernet malbec or merlot malbec and barely a handful of producers making a varietal version. Its 111ha (according to New Zealand Winegrower figures) makes it our fifth most widely planted red grape variety, with roughly 75% found in Hawke’s Bay.
Deeply coloured, it has plum flavours similar to merlot, often with an earthy or slightly "rustic" twist and powerful tannins.