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Cahors AC wines

The wines of Cahors (Lot Valley, South West France)
Cahors (46 Lot, Occitanie) has been a favourite of ours since the beginning of our interest in wine. The Lot, south of the more crowded Dordogne, is both dramatic and scenic – and the vineyards are very evident – along the valley west of the attractive town of Cahors and on the hillsides (causses) north and south of the river.
Its wines are very distinctive – quite different from Bordeaux or the Languedoc. Only red wine from the Malbec grape, it is traditionally tannic and plummy – probably better with food than by itself. However, recent vintages are succeeding in retaining depth of flavour with some wonderfully smooth attractive tannins. resulting in a wonderfully smooth big mouthful of wine, drinkable young but with good ageing potential – and a great response to the generally fruitier wines from South America!

A little history….The wine of Cahors is justly proud of its ancient lineage and renown. It was already spoken of during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian in the year 96AD.
The local poet Clement Marot often celebrated its qualities and the Bishop of Verdun, Saint Paul, wrote to Saint Didier, Bishop of Cahors (639-662), to thank him for the wine sent to him. Francis I graced his table with Cahors wine, and even planted a Cahors vine in the grounds of his chateau of Fontainebleau. It is only a few years ago that the last vine was pulled out of what was once known as the “King’s Vines”.
The Russian Orthodox church adopted it as its Communion Wine and the Tsar Peter the Great used to treat his very delicate stomach with Cahors wine. Indeed, if you visit Chateau Eugenie at Albas, you will see some old bottles on display with the name CAHORS in the Russian script.

2007  was a great year for Cahors, as it saw the 700th Anniversary of the medieval fortified bridge (Pont Valentré) which is one of its main attractions.
On a more mundane, but practical note, there is a new free Park-and-Ride service (Navette) from cr parks on the  south and north sides of the river  to the town centre, which should ease some of the parking difficulties in the town.
And Cahors is now recognised as a “ Ville d’Art et d’Historie” by the French Government, one of 130 sites across France recognised for the importance and quality of their heritage. The town is also active in protecting and restoring much of this heritage, by restricting traffic and encouraging restoration without turning the place into a theme park. As with so many towns like this, although the obvious attractions of the main boulevard, market, Catherdral and the river
are delightful, a bit of exploration on foot will yield some of the more interesting gems and snickleways in the heart of the medieval town.

Families of the Vine by Michael SandersFamilies of the Vine – a follow-up to his fascinating “From Here you can’t see Paris” this burrows deeply into the wine culture of Cahors in South West France, with an intimate exploration of three wine-making families in the region, including Clos Triguedena. The trials of climate, the difficult but potentially wonderful) Malbec grape and the family issues are interwoven to give a unique insight into the realities of a life in wine production.

THE VINEYARD

Cahors glassLying within the 44th and 45th Parallels, the Cahors vineyard is, as the crow flies, equidistant (200 km) from the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees. This geographical position ensures that the vineyard is protected from both the Atlantic humidity and the Mediterranean downpours in the autumn thus resulting in a ripening of the crop without rain, through a sunny Indian summer.

THE GRAPE VARIETIES

The main variety is the Cot, locally called Auxerrois (more commonly known in the UK as Malbec). According to tradition it must account for at least 70% of the total stock of vines. This is the variety that endows the wine of Cahors with its tannin, its colour and its ability to age. The additional varieties:
Merlot gives roundness, mellowness and bouquet;
Tannat (the principal grape in Madiran) enhances the qualities of the main variety; it belongs to the same ampelographical family; its wine has a great aptitude for ageing
These two supplementary varieties must not exceed 30% of the total vine stock. The various slight differences that can be observed between wines of Cahors are due, first of all, to the difference in the soil composition, and also to the different percentages of additional varieties, used in its production.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE WINES

The wine of Cahors has a bright, often deep red colour tending to be almost black in some vintages. It is a tannic wine, very full in the mouth. With age it becomes more refined, velvety and attains some very distinguished aromas such as leather, chocolate, plums and tobacco!

Producers we can recommend:-

Georges Vigouroux – although this company acts partly as a negociant, it also owns and runs a number of fine Cahors Chateaux such as Chateau de Mercuès, Chateau Leret-Monpezat, Chateau de Caix and Chateau de Haut Serre. Amongst the new wines they feature an exciting new blend called “Pigmentum” which as the name suggests is deeply coloured, but also a really juicy, fruity style of Malbec (almost “New World” dare we say!). This wine was featured on a recent BBC Radio 4 Food Programme, when Andrew Jefford tasted it with a major wine buyer – the conclusion was very positive, especially at a price point of £5.00 retail. The wine is stocked in the UK by Advintage Wines
Pigmentum 2003 Cahors, SAS Georges Vigouroux “Pigmentum is Latin and means “object that gives colour”. It is a historic name reminding us of the Roman origin of the wine. In the 15th century Pigmentum was a well known wine liquor. The current 100% Malbec version is an beautiful drinkable wine with the dark colour of the Cahors, but with lot’s of fruit and smooth tannins. The launch in France was a grand success as we are sure it will be in the UK. The producers treat the wine as a whole concept, it reflects the much improved quality of Cahors wines in a modern labelled antique brown bottle with a deep punt. The orange stands for the warmth and enthusiasm with which this wine is produced. Combination of taste and outlook works really well! £5.00 Further information” – see Advintage Wines

Advintage Wines also stock Cahors AC Chateau de Caix  – “ a blend of Auxerrois, Merlot and Tannat. A complex dark wine with a smooth long finish. Ideal for the Christmas period and a definite example of the revolutionary improvement of the production in the Cahors region
and Château Leret Monpezat – “ This was the first vineyard managed by Vigouroux, which has set the benchmark for the high quality of all the appellations produced…. a blend of Malbec, Merlot and Tannat and has a strong character as it has a higher percentage of tannat than the Caïx wine. The “terroir” and the maturing in oak barrels for up to 24 months defines the wine with ruby red colour. The taste has hints of black currants and vanilla, “Taste it and you will never tire of it” is the motto of Jean-Baptiste the owner. An elegant wine which can be accompanied with red meats, game and cheese.”  from Advintage Wines

Chateau de Mercuès – at Mercues – another of the big names in Cahors (owned and run by the Vigoroux family) making big elegant wines in a cellar beneath the stunning Chateau/Hotel on a promontory dominating the Lot Valley just west of Cahors.No UK importer as far as we know.

Although the Chateau is impressively situated on a promontory on the north bank of the Lot to the west of Cahors, some of its vines are on the southern bank. The Chateau de Mercues is one of the prestigious “Seigneurs de Cahors”, formed to promote the very best wines of the Cahors appellation. The Vigouroux family runs this Chateau which aims to produce great quality wines in the highest tradition of the appellation. (See the hotel website at Chateau de Mercuès)

This wine, made predominantly from the local Auxerrois grape (also known as Cot and Malbec), is aged in oak to produce a big, rich, smooth red with great plummy, chocolate flavours.
Reviewed in ANDYS SCRIBBLINGS .”Very deep and brooding in colour with an equally masculine aroma – deep stewed fruits with an earthy touch. The palate is a delight – lighter perhaps than the colour and aroma would indicate but with a good tannic grip on the finish. Packed with deep plumy fruit flavours backed up with sweet oaky notes.”
Scribblings Rating – 92/100

When in Cahors visit the ATRIUM wine cellars on the N20 just south of the town for a great range of Cahors wines.

Chateau Eugenie – Albas (www.chateaueugenie.com) where the Couture family have a welcoming tasting room and a good range of wines – try the Cuvee de l’Aieul – superb! The top cuvée from Chateau Eugenie. “Aieul” means grandfather, and this is indeed the grandaddy of their wines. This wine is made from selected older vines (some really planted by their grandfather many years ago). 95% Auxerrois and 5% Tannat. The wine is aged for 20 months, partly in new oak which adds intensity and vanilla overtones to a wonderfully smooth and rich Cahors which lasts long in the mouth – and would last many years in bottle.

This wine was awarded 2** (“remarkable wine”) in the Guide Hachette des Vins 2002 and in 2003. – “In 1470, an “aieul” (grandfather) was already cultivating this estate, as testified by the archives of Cahors. In the 18th century, the Russian Czars used to buy wine from here. In 1985 the 1982 vintage was described for the readers of the very first “Guide Hachette des Vins”… deep colour, so dense it is opaque, quite expresive on the nose it delivers dark berry fragrances in the form of crystallised fruit or brandy, carried by the oak to a roasted coffee aroma! On the palate it yields beautiful sensations with rich concentration, powerful fruit and toasty aromas with a good body and a nice structure, giving it real presence.” No UK importer as far as we know

Chateau les Hauts d’Aglan
at Touzac, west of Puy l’Eveque where Isabelle Rey-Auriat makes a stunning unoaked and unflitered Cuvee “A” – This is a stunning wine. Made from 100% Auxerrois (also known as Cot or Malbec) from older vines. Aged in stainless steel (no oak!) for 18 months using “micro-oxygenation” – a technique which involves using minute quantities of piped oxygen bubbles to develop the wine, whilst extracting maximum colour and flavour. The wine is not artificially filtered, but left to settle before bottling. The result is an inky black wine which is gloriously fruity (plums and raspberries), lush, rich and smooth. The wine from the superb 2000 vintage drinks well now, and will continue to develop and mature for 10 years or more.This wine was awarded a “coup de coeur” or “love at first sip” award in the latest edition of the French wine bible, the Guide Hachette des Vins 2003, one of only 3 Cahors wines to be so recognised – “une belle expression aromatique”.
Reviewed in ANDYS SCRIBBLINGS . “Concentrated colour – very deep and brooding. Excellent fruit on the palate This is made entirely from Auxerrois grapes (Malbec) and surprisingly has seen no oak. It has however been subjected to micro-oxygenation to develop the wine. An award winning wine (Coup de Coeur Award, Guide Hachette des Vins 2003. Although drinkable now the tannins are rather dominant at the moment so needs more time. One for the cellar therefore and how marvellous it will be on emerging in three or four years.” Scribblings Rating – 88/100. No UK importer as far as we know

Clos Triguedina – at Vire-sur-Lot– Mr Baldes makes some very classy Cahors – the Prince Probus is big, smooth, chunky and expensive – but he also makes a traditional “Vin cuite” – where the picked grapes are baked in an oven overnight to concentrate the juices – this old style is now marketed as “The New Black Wine” – see a review at www.spittoon.biz – available in the UK from Philglas & Swiggott

Chateau Haut Monplaisir at Vire-sur-Lot – a small chateau now making some excellent wines with some technical assistance from the prestigious Chateau de Cedre. Their success is such that in 2005 they have won awards in both Decanter and Wine Magazine – especially for their “Pur Plaisir” ( see Eton Vintners)

Chateau de Chambert
at Floressas is probably the most attractively and distinctive chateau in the region, situated as it is on top of a small hillock with a driveway flanked by sculpted box hedges leading the eye up to the twin turrets either side of the building. Their wines are good, if a little pricey. See www.chateaudechambert.com/

Domaine du Prince at Cournou on the southern edge of the appellation on the high causse. A long-established family concern  managed by the two brothers Didier and Bruno and their spouses.producing some real quality wines.

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