by Ian Blackshaw
Someone once said that there are two important decisions to be made each day: what to eat; and what to drink? And I would certainly not disagree with that! Why not try something new: a relatively undiscovered and very good French red wine – from Cahors?
Since 1971, Cahors has had its own Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), which forms part of the South West France wine region. Cahors winemaking goes back to Roman times, with vines planted around 50 BC in the area. Today, there are 4,200 hectares (10,000 acres) of Cahors vineyards.
Generally speaking, the style of Cahors wine is similar to robust versions of Bordeaux red wine. The designation AOC Cahors, in fact, may only be used for red wines. There is also some white and rosé wine produced in the area, which is sold under the wine designation “Vin de Pays du Lot” and follows the course of the Lot river, which is a tributary of the Garonne, which irrigates the Bordelais wine region.
The main gape variety is Malbec, which, under the local wine regulations, must make up 70% of the Cahors red wine, known locally as “Côt Noir”; the other 30% is made up of Merlot and Tannat. The so-called ‘black wine’ of Cahors is particularly appreciated and valued. When you hold up a bottle to the light, the wine looks inky and dark. It is a full-bodied and robust wine, well suited to accompany a hearty stew, such as a traditional pot au feu, or a strong cheese, such as Roquefort. This is a wine with attitude and will keep for many years if stored under the right conditions!
In fact, during the Middle Ages, the Cahors wine was called “the black wine of Lot”. It was served at the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II of England. Pope John XXII, who was born in Cahors, made it his table and sacramental wine. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who was the Controller-General of French Finances from 1665 – 1683, did not hesitate to deem it superior to Bordeaux (quite a claim but, in my opinion, being a claret fan, not entirely justified!); and the Russian Emperor, Peter I of Russia, drank Cahors and the Russian Orthodox Church adopted it as their sacramental/communion wine.
In recent times, the popularity, particularly in the UK, of the varietal Malbec wine from Argentina has probably contributed a great deal to a resurgent interest in Cahors wine, which is France’s best example of a Malbec-dominated wine.
Try the Cahors red wine for yourself, perhaps in situ – a good vintage being 2002 – and let the author know what you think of it!