RICHARD ESLING: Revolutionary wine from south-west France

Paradoxe de Malbec
Paradoxe de Malbec

Think of a wine made from the Malbec grape variety, and immediately your mind turns to full- bodied, tannic red wines, perhaps from Cahors in South-west France or otherwise from Latin America – Argentina or Chile.

However, there are some other wines made from this variety which may take you completely by surprise.

Last week, I came across a very unusual wine with an interesting name called ‘Paradoxe de Malbec’.

It is made in South-west France in the department of the Lot and is a white wine from 100% Malbec grapes. Hence the paradox.

It is one of those confusing things about wines and wine-making, that white wines can be made from black grapes, a principle I keep trying to drum into my students on various wine courses I teach. In champagne, together with other high quality sparkling wine producing regions around the world, this happens all the time. These wines are often made from a blend of three different grape varieties - Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, and it is only the latter which is a white variety. The trick is to eliminate the grape skins at a very early stage in the wine-making process, since all the colour in black grape varieties is in the skin and not in the juice or pulp. Much white champagne and other sparklers are thus made from black grapes.

In fact, there are a number of champagnes and champagne method wines which are made only from black grape varieties and called Blanc de Noirs. The grapes are gently pressed, the skins eradicated and the resultant white juice is then fermented. This was thus the process used for the paradoxical wine made from Malbec. Instead of a powerful red wine, a dry white was produced. The story goes that the wine came about as the result of a rather mad bet, to make a high quality white wine from a variety which traditionally makes a full-blooded red.

The result is a huge success. A delicate, bone dry white wine, with a very pale lemon colour and delicate floral aroma of apple blossom or spring flowers. The wine has medium body and crisp acidity, with flavours of pear, white peach and gala apples and good length on the palate. A perfectly balanced wine with a fine aromatic character, it has tremendous appeal and great versatility. Excellent as an aperitif, it is great with seafood and a superb accompaniment to cheese dishes, such as raclette (a firm favourite with the skiing fraternity), fondue or cheddar soufflé.

The producer of this unique and exclusive wine, is the Laur family at Chateau Laur in the village of Floressas. This family of winemakers has been making high quality wines in the Lot since 1881 and works hard to both look after the environment, whilst making wines of top quality.

While making a great range of traditional red wines, they are forward-thinking enough to experiment and innovate.The Paradox range includes a rosé and a sweet white wine, together with the dry white, all from Malbec.

Revolutionary. But then France has a certain reputation for revolution.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit

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