The Southwest is one of the poorest defined and least understood viticultural regions in France. Long in the shadow of, […]Keep Reading
The Southwest is one of the poorest defined and least understood viticultural regions in France. Long in the shadow of, and erroneously seen as the poor country cousins of Bordeaux, the various appellations situated in the former duchy of Aquitaine are each worth consideration in their own right. Especially Cahors.
Long before Bordeaux even had a left bank or an international reputation, the black wines of Cahors were enjoyed in England, Flanders, Holland, and at the court of the Tsars. It helped that the English were in control of the region for from the 12th through the 15th century since they had an enormous thirst for wine, and even more so, the money they made exporting it to northern Europe. Once Aquitaine became a province of the French crown however, local interests in Bordeaux began to choke off much of the wine trade from farther flung inland regions in favor of Châteaux closer to home and under thier economic control. Wine still traveled down the Lot and Garonne to Bordeaux but was frequently used to darken and enrich the local claret before export. By the time phylloxera struck there were over 40,000 hectares of vines in what is now Cahors, but today that number is only about 5,000 hectares. After several false starts at replanting their vineyards with hybrids, the vigneron of Cahors has settled on the indigenous Malbec (also locally known as Cot) as the variety best suited to their climate and soils. Malbec must comprise at least 70% of a wine’s blend to be labeled Cahors. The other two permitted varieties are Merlot and Tannat.
The Lot carves a picturesquely steep valley through Cahors and vigneron frequently speak of the qualities of four distinct terroirs – three geologic terraces formed by erosion cause by the Lot and the plateau above them. As you get closer to the river the soils become fertile and rich with nutrients. Moving up the slope, one finds more limestone and poorer soils and the wines increase in structure and intensity. Vineyards on the plateau are the most structured as they are planted on Kimmeridgian limestone – the same “chalk line” that stretches from Cahors and Monbazillac through Sancerre and up to Chablis and the Aube.
Château Vincens, owned and managed by the young and dynamic Philippe Vincens, has quickly become a leader in Cahors thanks in large part due to their viticultural practices as well as the location of their vineyards on the plateau above the Lot river valley. The winds are so strong at these higher elevations that the vines remain quite dry and don’t suffer from the mold and rot issues that vines further down the hillsides are subjected to. Grown on chalky clay soils over Kimmeridgian limestone bedrock and relying almost entirely on Malbec, one would think that the wines of Château Vincens would be old-fashioned, backward and overly tannic but by some magic Philippe has managed to make wines that are lush, pure examples of Malbec that still smell and taste like the soil of France. Totaling close to 40 hectares in size, the vineyards of Château Vincens are planted in harmony with the landscape to take advantage of the prevailing winds while preventing erosion of their soils. The ground between their vine rows alternates between tilled soil and grass which retains water and heat, but leaches nutrients – one of the many sustainable farming practices employed at the estate. Fermentation are in tank and aging takes place in concrete or French oak barrels.
The wildness of the terrain of this nearly lost region of France is so obvious in the wines of Château Vincens that we fell in love with them the first moment we tasted them.Close