Prunelard Noir is an ancient and rare black-berried grape variety thought to have originated in Gaillac, southern France. The arrival of phylloxera in the late 19th Century virtually wiped out all Prunelard Noir plantings, which once covered much of the Tarn department. The variety was presumed extinct but, in the late 20th Century, some very old vines were found. Since then, there has been a resurgence in plantings in Gaillac because of Prunelard Noir's traditional reputation for producing high-quality wines.
The variety is easily mistaken for Malbec (also known as Côt), as there are very few botanical differences between the two. The confusion is reflected in what the locals call Prunelard Noir: Red-stemmed Côt. In 2009, similarities between it and Malbec prompted DNA testing of the varieties, which determined that Prunelard Noir is, in fact, the father of Malbec. This makes Prunelard Noir one of the oldest members of the Cotoïde family of grape varieties to which Manseng Noir, Négrette and Tannat also belong. Interestingly, Prunelard Noir's mother, Magdeleine Noire des Charentes, is also the mother of Merlot.
Like its better-known offspring Malbec, Prunelard Noir comes from vines that are low-yielding and grow medium-sized bunches of small, intensely colored berries. Consequently, its blackberry-scented wines tend to have good structure and color and marked depth of flavor. They also have a distinctive aroma of fresh plum, which may explain the variety's name: prune is French for plum.
When the AOC system was created, Prunelard Noir was believed to be extinct and therefore was initially excluded from the Gaillac and Marcillac appellations. In the early 21st Century, the appellation laws were updated to allow the variety to be included (up to 10 percent of the final blend) in Gaillac and Marcillac wines. Some single-variety expressions can be found, classified as IGP Côtes du Tarn.
Synonyms include: Prunelar, Prunelart, Red-stemmed Côt.
Related grape varieties include: Malbec, Magdeleine Noire des Charentes, Prunelard Blanc
Food matches include:
Europe: Char-grilled lamb
Americas: Argentine asado (barbecued meats)
Australasia/Oceanic: Crockpot lamb shanks