A week of visits, tastings, dining and seminars all arranged through the Villa Malbec in Cahors, by Marketing Director Jeremy Arnaud, and his excellent team. This was a superb opportunity for each of us (oneologists, importers, journalists, bloggers and winemakers from around the world) to increase our awareness and knowledge of not just the great wines of Cahors, but also the fine terroir that allows for such different expressions and individuality right here in our small Appellation. It does indeed appear that Cahors Malbec is firmly back on the map with superbly expressive, true Black Wines. Black is Back! No doubt! (Summary at the bottom of the page).
MONDAY 16 JUNE 2014
To introduce all the visitors the home of the original Malbec, the morning presentation and seminar was a great start to the week. A warm welcome to all came from Jeremy Arnaud, who presented Jean-Marie Sigaud (President of the UIVC) and Jean-Marc Vayssouze (President du Grand Cahors & Mayor or Cahors). The speakers progressed at a good pace with presentations from around the world, diving into the History of Cahors, the Malbec grape elsewhere, moving on through Viticulture and Oneology of the Malbec grape variety. I was particularly excited to listen to Roger Voss of Wine Enthusiast, amongst other interesting speakers, as he discussed the difficulties of CAHORS Malbec in America. After touching on the Economy and Marketing of Malbec, the discussion moved onto a Panel of Speakers which included our own Bruno Jouves of Domaine du Prince, visiting oneologues and viticulturists from around the world, who informed us all of their wines, ideas and plans. Well timed, we ended just before lunch and walked in the sunshine down to the Prefectures Offices beside the Cathedral in the old quarter. Here we enjoyed an excellent buffet, cleverly spread among the different winemakers of Cahors.
Tastings of Cahors Malbecs included 38 domains, chateaux and negotiants.
We had the afternoon to sample the different wines from each area in Cahors diverse landscape, which included a huge variety of terroir, expression and intensity of tastes. Managing to visit and taste several wines available, I gained yet a further insight into this amazing grape – how the limestone soil compliments the clay and iron oxide, with such a variety! Making plans to visit the vineyards of several, I was able to catch up with several winemakers and their new wines. As I personally sell the wines of smaller, predominantly organic or bio-dynamic vineyards, this was an interesting time to compare many different wines, from the smaller vineyards to the large Chateaux and corporate vineyards.
I was happily able to assist a vineyard whose wines I have been representing for over a year now and thanks for the opportunity to impart my knowledge of his wines. For the benefit of those who know very little about the Malbec grape, there are incredibly differing styles, tastes, complexities and identities among the winemakers of Cahors Malbec. From the vineyards close to the River on the 1st Terrace, towards the hillsides of the 2nd and 3rd Terraces which contain some excellent terroirs with more intense and complex wines, right up onto the Plateau overlooking Cahors and which has some exquisite terroir and wines.
The UIVC has very helpfully determined that Cahors Wines covered by the AOC / ACC fall into 3 main categories: Tradition : light and fruity 70 – 85% Malbec. Prestige : tasty and powerful, 85 – 100% Malbec. Cuvees Exceptional : intense and complex 100% Malbec. (For more indepth details contact the UIVC, Villa Malbec website or read my other blogs).
Unfortunately unable to stay and sample the Evening Meal at the Cathedral, I was reliably informed it was a superb Buffet with many excellent wine / food pairings, courtesy of David Blanco of the Restaurant Cote Sud and the winemakers of Cahors.
TUESDAY 17 JUNE 2014
An early start, we all met with the Soil Experts Claude and Lydia Bourguignon among the vines at Chateau du Cedre for a presentation of the soil, vine roots and thanks to a trench Jean-Marc and Pascal Verhaeghe had allowed to be dug between the vines, we were able to understand more fully the interaction between the vine and the terroir. As they are sited on the 3rd Terrace, the soil and rocks were quite easy to note, with the length of the roots growing down to almost a metre in these older vines. Certainly a point for debate upon the organic and non-organic farming methods of the vines – although Ch. du Cedre is ‘Biologique’ . It was extremely interesting and was very helpful to my own studies as well as further comprehending the wine.
The mornings tasting was held at Caillac Village Hall and we we able to identify more closely the Cahors Valley Wines. With 27 domaines, chateaux and negotiants, it was an extremely interesting tasting opportunity and once again I was able to taste the wines of those I know against others who I plan to visit and hope to represent in the future. Thanks, in part, to excellent advice and recommendation of vineyard, I very rarely taste a Cahors Black Wine I don’t enjoy, and while some do exist here, I am delighted to say that the wine here is diverse and capable of many different identities. Lunch was at the Restaurant Le Vinois in Caillac, and was superb paired with the local wines from the winemakers, well worth a repeat visit in the future.
With various Classic Cars appearing to chauffeur everyone around, the afternoon was the first chance to visit several individual wineries in style! I jumped at the chance to update the details of with superb Lo Domeni based in Caillac. Le Clos, light very fruity, extremely drinkable and quite elegant, with the oak aged Vendemia balancing this duo, Pierres wines are easy to adore, and with his exquisite Cote Rose (60/40% Malbec/Merlot) this pale salmon wine with floral beauty is one of the best roses in Cahors. A small 7.5ha estate managed solely by Pierre Pradel, with hand harvested grapes, a personal welcome is always guaranteed by a true artisan who knows his wine! Now with an outstanding new wine ‘V’, aged in oak by Pierre, who waited until he determined this wine was ready to be bottled….at only 20€ a bottle, it is quite honestly competition for far more expensive wines! I know what I will be drinking…
Heading off to Chateau Gaudou for an appointment I’d made earlier, I enjoyed driving through the stunning Lot Valley towards the far end of the vineyards. Sited in the centre of some of highly regarded vineyards of Vire-sur-Lot, Fabrice welcomed me to the Chateau. An eagerly anticipated visit as he has produced the first White Malbec in Cahors! I was extremely eager to taste this as I am currently writing an article on the White and Black Wines of Cahors….so this is very very exciting! Similar in style to the Viognier, it had a sharp apple citrus taste that I loved, although I can understand why perfectionist Fabrice wants to continue working on it. I will say no more for now, read the article & blog for an indepth tasting & review on Gaudou…. Kind enough to talk me through the estate, where the magic is created, the new fermentation tanks with ‘underfloor heating’ (more later!), the cave and the vineyard, I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and am looking forward to writing up the full blog on their wines and estate! (good luck to the baby due in July as well – busy time!).
Dinner that evening was held at Chateau Lagrazette in Caillac, alas I was unable to attend this, although once again, happily, the event was successful with many people enthusing about the food and wine.
WEDNESDAY 18 JUNE 2014
Starting in much the same way as Tuesday, this morning found is at Chateau Ponzac in the trench that showed us the limestone Causse like rocks and terroir, with the roots snaking their way through this minerality, and the second trench showing us the clay that gives their other wine such deep and different expression. With a simple test on site to check for limestone, there was some debate regarding scientific proof of their findings, although with over 40 years of experience, lab tests and site visits I think I would certainly be content with their reports. I found it just as interesting and as it was given by Lydia and Claude in both English and French everyone had the chance to benefit from their expertise, experience and knowledge.
Next Tasting Venue was Floressas for the Cahors Plateau wines, and with 19 domaines, chateaux and negotiants, this was as interesting as each day with diversity in individual wines. The wines being tasted today were Plateau wines from high up to the South of Cahors on the hilltop. The terroir here is limestone, clay and with iron oxide providing additional depth and complexity to the wines, as well as an elegant identity to many wines here. There were some excellent examples of the minerals in the soil with Chateau de Chamberts Philippe Lejeune personally bringing in rocks of each type to demonstrate. We are lucky to have the superb AOC wines, Malbec, Merlot and Tannat allowed in 70/30 blends (Malbec being dominant), and also today there were a few examples of their white and rose wines as well. I was very excited to be able to compare many superb wines against each other, including one of the most original Black Wines, vinified in Clay Jars, the iconic ‘K2‘ from Clos Troteligotte, created by artisan winemaker Emmanuel Rybinski, a most pure form of complex expression from some of the best grapes on siderolithique terroir on the plateau. An interesting comparison to make, and note the minerality in these, although we also had the opportunity once again to make appointments and visit the winemakers themselves.
Lunch on the terrace there was superb with, once again, some excellent local cuisine paired with the wines from the Plateau winemakers. This easy buffet style suited the heat of the day and the marquees aided in keeping us all cool as we discussed the wines and market place of international wines. Chateau de Chambert had kindly extended an invitation to a private tasting for us all at the Chateau, with a tour by owner Philippe himself, and the chance to discuss the vines with him, see the fermentation tanks, and have the unique opportunity to taste older wines, allowing us to compare past and present in Cahors Black Wines history. A fascinating visit, as usual, and an extremely enjoyable visit and tasting! Thank you to Phlippe and his excellent team.
The visit lasted 2 hours and with the superb chauffers in their classic cars continuing to drive our lucky visitors around the Lot, visiting other vineyards, I headed off to be a tourist for the afternoon, taking in a quick coffee at Le Caillau, based among the vineyards around Vire-sur-Lot, and collecting some more wines for my various articles and blogs. Having tasting so many Cahors Malbec wines in the day, I felt that I wanted to clear my palette for the very exciting tasting of Southern Hemisphere wines that evening, and dinner at Chateau de Mercues. So a visit to some friends locally and after the delivery of several Cahors Malbec wines to clients, I had time to get changed for the evening and head over to the Chateau for my first evening visit.
Chateau Mercues Dinner : I was able to taste many of the Australian, Chilean, Argentinian and South African Malbec wines available there, and although not always to my taste, I could appreciate the technical variances and differences in minerality, depth and complexity among these wines. Some superb, with depth, flavours such as chocolate, liquorice and dark fruits similar to our own here, yet others with an open fruitiness, simplicity of flavour, each displaying a signature for each country, yet like ours, all differing in thier own identities. The similarity in soil and terroir of Argentina has been written about many times, and was certainly evident here, yet unique to their own. The elegant fruitiness of the South African wines has, like each Malbec I tasted, a familiar edge, yet completely different. Many wines that evening were smooth, elegant, fruity and delicate, balanced with full bodied tannins and depth in others. An excellent representation of the various countries, over too soon as dinner was called. I was once again lucky in my seating, and sat with La Berangeraies Marlene, I was able to chat with the other 11 people sat on our table, about the various wines of our own different countries. 6 excellent courses provided by award winning Julien Poisot who recently rejoined the Chateau staff in April after training and gaining experience as head chef elsewhere in France. Each course paired with a different Malbec wine; South African Druk my Niet, Chilean Viu Manent and La Berangeraie La Gorgee Mathis Bacchus among others. Superb!! Unfortunately I needed to leave before the final dessert as it was quite sometime past midnight, although I am delighted to report that it was an elegant evening supported by winemakers from around the world.
THURSDAY 19 JUNE 2014
This was a lazy day for me, left to our own devices, I had a late morning with my friends and headed off into the vineyards at lunchtime. Lunch was at Cafe Pukeko in Puy L’Eveque where I met up with fellow Malbec Days Leo Borsi and we put the world of wine to rights with an excellent pichet of rose! Originally I’d had great plans to visit a couple of Chateaux locally, but after lunch decided to head up to another Organic (certified BIO) vineyard Domaine des Sangliers as I wanted to taste their excellent wines yet hadn’t seen them this week. Superb timing as it turned out as they have just been bottling their latest wine Domaine des Sanglieres 2006, oak aged for just over 22 months and laid down until they felt ready to release it – wow! That worked! I tasted their other wines that I carry, the Stanton Black 2007, which I adore for its fruitiness, subtlety yet medium tannins and medium acidity which is well balanced in a long finish of fruits and spice. Well, their latest wine takes this onto a new level, red fruits and spice on the nose, oakiness in the first taste, liquorice and spices with the mildest hint of cloves. Long finish, med acidity and med tannins as well give this one top makes from me. Kim Stanton (also a fellow biker) and I chatted for nearly 4 hours about their wines, motorbikes, their children, my children, yet more motorbikes and I left only when I realised I needed to visit the other side or Cahors to change for the evenings festivities on the Pont Valentre. Kim and Lisa are both extremely welcoming and although family circumstances this year meant they couldn’t participate in the Malbec Days, they are well worth mentioning as a visit to taste their wines. And then it was time to head to the Pont Valentre (surprisingly, for the first time for me!).
The evening at the Pont Valentre was spectacular with lights on the bridge, fine wines, the final tasting for me this week, although it continues with all the visits afterwards to the vineyards, interviews, write ups and articles! A wonderful finale with excellent vineyards, and still a few more wines tasted, including the latest top wine from Domaine du Prince, 2011 Lou Prince…..I wrote ‘Wow’ on the bottle itself I was so bowled over and impressed! If there has ever been a true black wine, this is it! Intense black-currants, liquorice, liquid dark chocolate, with a complexity and masculinity that begs another taste….Bravo Bruno, Didier and Helen Jouves! Chateua Chambert took the opportunity to introduce people to their rose and Chardonnay White as well, which was very welcome. A shame we didn’t have the chance to taste other Mlabec Roses, as there are just a few extremely varied but outstanding wines that are worth tasting, although I understand the ideal was to present the AOC Cahors Malbec in its truest form.
In finishing this week, I was sad to finally walk away at midnight and drive the hour home, as I had met new friends both here in Cahors and from the world of wines and journalism, tasted incredible wines, increased my knowledge further of the true home, the original home of the Malbec Grape CAHORS.
The biggest THANK YOU to Jeremy Arnaud, to the team at Villa Malbec, the tireless work from the winemakers of Cahors Malbec vineyards, and everyone behind this incredible week. I am looking forward to the next one in 2 years time….California was it?
SUMMARY OF KEY POINTS TO NOTE:
> UIVC and Independent Vintners promoting the next generation of Cahors Malbec wines through increased professionalism.
> Individual expression and identity, yet cohesion and determination from the winemakers to increase quality and perfection.
> The release of first White Malbec Wine.
> Latest Black Wine vintages showcased throughout the week.
> Excellent examples of the pairing of local cuisine and wines (from Cahors and also Malbec around the world).
> Experiencing the practical expertise of Lydia and Claude Bourguignon
> The world wide professional representation of the Malbec Wine.
> Bringing Malbec (Cot, Auxerrois) back to it’s roots, here in the original home of Cahors.
> BLACK IS BACK …… and it has a name …… CAHORS MALBEC .
If you want to read about the Wonderful World of Cahors Malbec Vineyards read my visits and tasting notes on the Vineyards of the Black Wine.
Jennifer Capron Iddon * 46 Black Wine * Mearsdon Wines Ltd