Get Away With Fran

September 6, 2009

Discovering Cahors wine at the source

Filed under: International,Travel Advice — Tags: , , , , , , , , — admin @ 1:52 pm

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The visit of 17 wine producers from Cahors, France, brought memories last week and not just because they brought along to Boston (as well as to Chicago and Washington) some delicious Cahors wine for tasting.

The French Malbec grape that’s the basis for the wine (AOC Cahors has to be at least 70% Malbec) is grown in the Lot river valley, a landlocked region in the center of France, roughly halfways between the Atlantic and the Med.

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Visiting this rural area this summer I learned a little about the heart and soul that goes into the product.

Now when I taste the wine I see beautiful images of green valley and cliffs, of meandering river and plains covered in vines. And more importantly, of the people I met on the trip, like the family that operates Chateau de Gaudou (in photo).

You learn so much more about a product when you visit the place of its birth. In the Lot valley, there are winemakers whose families have been growing vines for many generations. This is not just a money making mechanism for them – though having, say, a New York distributor is surely a source of pride – but more a way of life. Fortunately for visitors, it’s a way of life they share, with tastings and vineyard tours.

The area’s other local products include foie gras and truffles and saffron – a visit to the region all but requires a taste. And there are seven Michelin-starred chefs in the valley ready to serve up these and other delights. You’d be hard-pressed to find a rural-meets-luxury comparison in America’s heartlands.

The best French Malbec wine is dark as night – the 13th-century English called it “black wine” – and with its subtle tastes and tannins, quite different than its better known Argentinean peers. It’s easy to see how centuries ago Malbec became a favorite wine of popes, kings and even Czar Peter the Great.

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Cahors wine is experiencing a comeback due in large part to the current generation’s ambitions. And the small city of Cahors (also famous for its medieval bridge, above) and region hope word of the wine will also mean more visitors.

On my trip, I met with Jean-Marc Vayssouze, the 37-year-old mayor of Cahors, who told me how a new Malbec wine visitor center will open in the city in May of next year, in time for International Malbec Days, May 21-23, the second annual event celebrating the local wine. During the festival, wine lovers and professionals discuss such weighty business as the history of the grape and various terroirs where Malbec grows best.

Vayssouze said he hopes the popularity of the wine will show the world that Cahors is a place where there is much to savour. There is indeed in my experience, and so I share that message.

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