Cahors, in the South West of France, is certainly not a new wine region. Winemaking here follows a long history. There are records of sales to London from the 1200s, but the region is known to have been producing wine since around 50BC under Roman rule. Unsurprisingly though, the region has always been overshadowed by Bordeaux which is found directly upriver.
Whereas Bordeaux is famous for its blends featuring star grapes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Cahors wine revolves around Malbec. Malbec is one of the red grapes that has been considered one of the staples of Bordeaux blends. The grape has not recovered in popularity in France’s south west since 1956 where huge numbers of vines were lost due to severe frost.
Cot, Auxerrois or Malbec…
Cahors local’s might know this grape as ‘Cot’ or confusingly as ‘Auxerrois’. Confusingly because the name Auxerrois is generally associated with a white grape. And derived from the Northern province with that name. Although, this particular historical name also then doffs its cap to speculation that the origins of this grape is from the North.
A quick history
The vineyards of Cahors have been well documented to have weathered several major events. Firstly, Phylloxera took its toll on the vineyards destroying around 90% of them in the 1800s. This led to a change in the varieties planted there. Then, after World World II, varieties changed again to produce finer quality wines.
By 1971, the varieties had settled to be predominantly Malbec. And the red wines in Cahors state that 70% must be Malbec, with some Tannat and Merlot allowed. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are not allowed in the mix.
Forbes.com reported that Cahors has around 7,500 acres of malbec. To put this in perspective, this is about 10% of what is planted in Argentina. There are plenty of great finds here. It really is not just about Malbec.
Cahors is a great region for finding excellent value red wines labelled as ‘Cahors AC’. There are white wines and rosé wines as well. Look for white wines and wines not fitting the Cahors AC rules labelled as Côtes du Lot. The white wines feature grapes such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Viognier. Although, it must be said that there is limited range available outside the local area.
The range of organic wines are growing too. And it goes without saying that when organic choices grow, so too does biodynamic wine choices. So much so that in 2022, Gerard Bertrand purchased an organic wine estate Domaine de Cause with the idea to convert to biodynamic growing in the near future.
Cahors cellar door trails
This is a great region to visit. There are plenty of cellar doors open and they are easy to visit. It is not just about great wine, but also some beautiful scenery. Although, it may be starker than you expect due to those soils. As you drive around, you might find you are driving past some very old gnarly bush vines in vineyards on hillsides with very thin stony soils.
These are all part of the Cahors magic.
To find out more, visit cahorsvalleedulot for more.
Those top picks
Good for the cellar too….
Chateau Eugenie Reserve de l’Aieul Cahors AC (€15)
This is a smooth red blend of 90% malbec and 10% tannat. It has been matured for 18 months in one third new oak. There is no hiding the inky black purple depths. The aromas are rich with cedary spice, black currant, cherry and thyme. There is an undercurrent of graphite minerality there too. This is an intense wine, full bodied, with grainy tannins and it finishes with long dark fruit. Cellar up to 8+ years.
Chateau La Martine Cuvee Particuliere Cahors AC (€15)
The Gayraud family are now fourth generation Cahors wine growers and the current custodians are Lise and Benjamin. The Particuliere is a blend of 90% malbec and 10% tannat from low yield, old vines ranging from 40 – 60 years old. The wine spends 14 months in a mix of seasoned large format and small barrels (50 | 50) . The fruit is vibrant here. Ripe black cherry and plum and a pinch of thyme. However, the fruit doesn’t disguise the savoury spice from that time mellowing in oak. It is a bold, full bodied with finely grained tannins and an elegant balance. This is good now, but also will look great for up to a decade in the cellar.
Chateau La Martine Expression Cahors AC (€25 )
This is the Gayraud family’s 100% Malbec red and it is rather irresistible. It is inky and dark in colour. And old vine fruit has certainly delivered rich and ripe complex fruit for this wine. There is cherry, plum fruit with a cedary note from spending 24 months in oak. Still there is a herbal lift and a savoury graphite minerality there too. Plus, of course, the expected Cahors tannins balanced with intensely concentrated and bold fruit. It is a full bodied, lush and fruity mouthful. This wine is well worth cellaring for anything up to 15 years. However, it is undeniably good drinking now.
For more visit cahorslamartine
Also see Domaine Berthoumieu review for a wine from neighbouring Madiran.