I've always thought of Malbec as being a French wine, however when visiting France, it appears to be quite uncommon. Does anyone know why is isn't popular there?
Malbec is a French wine and at one point was grown in 30 different departments of France, a legacy that is still present in the abundance of local synonyms for the variety. However this variety of grapes is in decline in part due to its' sensitivities to so many different vine ailments (coulure, downy mildew, frost).
In recent times, the popularity of the variety has been steadily declining with a 2000 census reporting only 15,000 acres (6,100 hectares) of the vine mostly consigned to the southwestern part of the country. Its stronghold remains Cahors where Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) regulations stipulates that Malbec must compose at least 70% of the blend, with Merlot and Tannat rounding out the remaining percentage. Outside of Cahors, Malbec is still found in small amounts as a permitted variety in the AOCs of Bergerac, Buzet, Côtes de Duras, Côtes du Marmandais, Fronton and Pécharmant. It is also permitted in the Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) of Côtes du Brulhois. In the MIDI region of the Languedoc, it is permitted (but rarely grown) in the AOC regions of Cabardès and Côtes de Malepère. There is a small amount of Malbec grown in the middle Loire Valley and permitted in the AOCs of Anjou, Coteaux du Loir, Touraine and the sparkling wine AOC of Saumur where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay. But as elsewhere in France, Malbec is losing acreage other varieties—most notably Cabernet Franc in the Loire.
The grape was historically a major planting in Bordeaux, providing color and fruit to the blend, but in the 20th century started to lose ground to Merlot and Cabernet Franc due, in part, to its sensitivities to so many different vine ailments (coulure, downy mildew, frost). The severe 1956 frost wiped out a significant portion of Malbec vines in Bordeaux, allowing many growers a chance to start anew with different varieties. By 1968 plantings in the Libournais was down to 12,100 acres (4,900 hectares) and fell further to 3,460 acres (1,400 hectares) by 2000. While Malbec has since become a popular component of New World meritages or Bordeaux blends, and it is still a permitted variety in all major wine regions of Bordeaux, its presence in Bordeaux is as a distinctly minor variety. Only the regions of the Côtes-de-Bourg, Blaye and Entre-Deux-Mers have any significant plantings in Bordeaux. - Malbec (Wikipedia).