Cahors – The Birthplace of Malbec (#Winophiles)

The French Winophiles are exploring Cahors this month and I was fortunate enough to receive 3 beautiful bottles of wine from this region as samples, however, all opinions are my own.

The Region

Cahors is a French wine region, located within the larger South West France region. These maps allow you to explore Cahors from the region, to where it sits in the larger South West France region, to where it falls within the entire country.

Cahors is defined by the Lot River and the Masiff Central Mountains and grapes grow on terraces between the two. The terraces are numbered with 1 being closest to the river and 4 being at the highest elevation and farthest from the river, also referred to as the Plateau or Causse – at about 900′ elevation.

Terraces Cahors
Image courtesy of https://vindecahors.fr/cs-en/

The soils closest to the river contain gravel and clay. The farther away and higher you go, the soil becomes more limestone, with a high iron content in the soil that influences the wines. Many wines are a blend of grapes from one or more terraces.

Cahors has hot summers and wet winters and has both Atlantic and Mediterranean influence.

History

Cahors (pronounced Kah-OR) is considered by most to be the birthplace of the Malbec grape. Like all French wine regions, a series of wars, pests, and weather resulted in devastation and near demise, but Cahors has the added difficulty of being somewhat hard to get to, which makes distribution of their wines another hurdle to overcome. Luckily, the French have perseverance – especially when it comes to their wine – and Cahors is a prime example.

In the 1970’s, wine production was at it’s lowest with less than 1000 acres of vines. Today the region has gained a modern day cult following among wine lovers, and Cahors has seen a large increase in export volume since 2012, with Great Britain, Canada, and the United States making up the majority of the export market.

The origins of Malbec may belong to Cahors, but the modern day love affair with the grape is owed to Argentina. Even though Argentina received it’s first vine cuttings directly from France, it has been Argentina who has made Malbec a household word. Today, Argentinian winemakers are buying vineyards in Cahors and Cahors is welcoming them with open arms. I love when something comes full circle, don’t you?

Bordeaux plays a role in the history of Malbec and, very specifically Cahors. The Lot river runs through the Cahors region and empties into the Garonne – which travels directly to Bordeaux. In ancient times this was the trade route that the Cahors wines traveled for distribution. The Bordelais were said to add the Cahors wine to their  own wines to improve both taste and appearance, and when the 6 grapes of Bordeaux were defined by law, Malbec made that list.

The region has been producing wine since Roman times, and gained the modern day AOC status in 1971. It is an interesting fun fact that Malbec was chosen by Peter the Great to be the sacramental wine of the Orthodox Church and remained the only grape used for communion for centuries, with many Orthodox Churches still using it today.

The Grapes

Cahors wines  are exclusively red and must contain at least 70% Malbec. The remaining 30% can include Merlot or Tannat. Eight-five percent of vineyards in Cahors are planted to Malbec.

You may hear the Malbec grape referred to as Cot, Cot Noir or Auxerrois. It is often referred to as the black wine of Cahors because of it’s inky dark color. The name Malbec  didn’t present itself until the 1700’s and is believed to come from a winemaker in the Medoc, Mr. Malbeck.

So let’s explore the wines I tasted.

Clos D’Audhuy Cahors Les Polissons 2018 (100% Malbec, 13.5% ABV, <$20 retail)

This wine meant to be drunk young and when you consider that I’m drinking this wine within a year of the grapes being harvested the wine is indeed impressive. I believe the name of this wine translates roughly to rascally or naughty and I would love to know the  story behind the very cute label art.

The grapes are hand harvested from a combination of vineyards on the lower terrace and the plateau, from vines that average 35 years in age. The wine sees no oak during fermentation of maturation. Clos D’Audhuy uses entirely organic practices and is in the process of organic certification. Only 6,000 cases were produced. 

It is a stunning inky dark color in the glass that makes you realize why these wines have been referred to a black wines over the ages. I got aromas of vanilla, black cherry and slight smoke or ash note. On the palate this wine is juicy – the young age and the lack of oak are apparent with a very fresh acidity and bold tannins. Flavors of blackberry and licorice, with a long somewhat spicy finish. Both the aromas and the flavors are surprising to me in that I always attribute vanilla and spice to oak aging – which did not happen here – so interesting!

I paired this wine with a “southern-fied” version of a Cassoulet that had cornbread on top and it worked really well. The cornbread and smoked sausage were a good rustic fit for this wine. (Recipe)

Chateau Vincens Cahors Origine 2016 (95% Malbec, 5% Merlot; 14% ABV, $20)

You know those easy drinking wines that magically disappear? This wine was one of those for me. I didn’t even have a chance to make a meal for this one, I just paired it with cheese and crackers and before I knew it was gone. It was an absolute perfect pairing with a black olive spread and with a truffle infused cheese. I made truffle popcorn for the last bit of this bottle on the 2nd day. Perfection.

These grapes are grown on plateau level vineyards and are mechanically harvested, but hand sorted. The wine sees between 10 and 15 months of oak aging. There are bold flavors, tannins and acidity, but the wine is well balanced and the components already  seem well integrated. I picked up aromas of vanilla, smoke and anise, with a slight herbal  – perhaps garrigue note. On the palate I got flavors of blackberry, cassis, licorice and again the herbal garrigue note. There was a spice note on the long finish.

Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a 92, but recommends holding it until 2022. Chateau Vincens says to drink from 2022 as well. I thought it was quite delightful right now. I think I’m going to have to order a bottle and hold onto it, just to see what all this 2022 fuss is about.

Les Roques De Cana Cahors Sanguis Christi 2008 (14.5% ABV, 100% Malbec, 25E)

It’s not often that I get to drink a wine with 10+ years of age, and this wine reminded me why it is truly a special thing. Like your favorite leather shoes or cashmere sweater, this wine provides a level of comfort that can only come with time. This wine is like an old friend. It clearly has me waxing poetic.

The grapes are hand harvested from plateau vineyards, with vines that average 40 years old.  The grapes are stainless steel fermented, with 12-14 of oak aging split equally between new and used French barrels.

In the glass this wine again reminds us why Malbec is known at the black wine of Cahors, but you can see with this one that the rim (meniscus) is much lighter, almost like a halo, indicating that the wine has a bit of age.

The real joy of this wine is the opulent mouth feel. It has black fruit and spice on the nose, both mirrored on the palate, with silky tannins and an incredibly long finish. This wine for me is not so much about the individual flavors, but the overall feel.

I made my first attempt at short ribs to go with this wine. I’m happy to say they turned out amazing and I thought it was a great pairing for this wine. (Recipe)

I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring the region of Cahors with me! Are you a fan of Cahors? Have you ever visited? I’d love to hear from you on the subject, so please leave a comment.

Want to learn more about this amazing region?  You can join in the conversation on Saturday, October 19th at 11a.m. EST by following the hashtag  #winophiles on Twitter, and/or you can read these articles from the French Winophiles here:

  • Jane from Always Ravenous explores the “Flavors of Fall Paired with Cahors
    Malbec”
  • Jill from L’Occasion shares “Cahors, a French Classic”
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be posting “Château du Cèdre
    Extra Libre 2018 Malbec + Cider-Braised Chicken Thighs”
  • Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm samples “A Trio of Cahors Wine and the
    Pairings Served”
  • Jeff of FoodWineClick! gives us “The Malbec You Never Knew: Cahors”
  • Linda of My Full Wine Glass shares “Newbies to Old-World Malbec Discover Cahors”
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences explores “The Old-World Style of Malbec from Cahors”
  • Deanna of Asian Test Kitchen gives us “French Malbecs Meet Chinese Duck”
  • Gwen from Wine Predator shares “From
    Cahors: Biodynamic Chateau du Cedre Malbec with French Charcuterie”
  • Pinny of Chinese Food & Wine Pairings matches “Cahor Malbecs and Waygu Beef”
  • Cynthia and Pierre of Traveling Wine Profs give us “Cahors, Hainan Chicken Rice, and the Stories Wine Books Tell”
  • Susannah of Avvinare will be “Shedding Light on Old World Malbec from Cahors”
  • Payal of Keep the Peas discusses “Cahors: What Put Malbec on the Map”
  • Rupal of Syrah Queen will posting “Cahors – Tasting “Black Wines” With The Original Malbec”
  • David of Cooking Chat pairs “Mushroom Truffle Risotto with Cahors Malbec”
  • Nicole of Somm’s Table shares “Bringing Home Cahors with Clos D’Audhuy”

Sources:
https://vindecahors.fr/cs-en/

http://lesroquesdecana.fr/en/a-story-a-philosophy-8.html

http://www.ripewi.com/clos-daudhuy.html

 

14 Comments Add yours

  1. wendyklik says:

    Cahors-Malbec are easy drinking wines. They pair well with food but they certainly don’t need food to be enjoyed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed this trio of wines, too! Got to try that truffle popcorn.

    Like

  3. Payal Vora says:

    Great recap of Cahors wine and soils!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such an informative post! I did not know Argentine winemakers are buying land in Cahors, that will be very interesting. Also fascinating fact that the Orthodox church uses Malbec for their communion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jane! I didn’t know any of this prior to researching for this article – one of the reasons I never tire of the subject 🍷🤗

      Like

  5. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I loved the comparison of aged wine to a pair of leather shores of cashmere — I’m going to use that. I also enjoyed the tidbit about Peter the Great.

    As to the drawing on the bottle, I believe it’s his kids or a drawing by his kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

      Also, in my first reply that was supposed to say “leather shoes or cashmere”. Haha

      Like

      1. hahaha! I knew what you meant;)

        Like

  6. Thanks Nicole! I love label art – especially when there is a nice story behind it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    Your post prompted me to go back and take a closer look at my notes from the trip — the short version is that it’s a drawing of his kids. I’ve added a little additional snippet about it to my post. Thanks for the inspo.

    Like

    1. I just went and read the update on your post – so cute that it the word is a combination of his kids names! I’m on such a southern France wine kick right now, I would love to visit!

      Like

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