Home France Three Days in Cahors, in pictures

Three Days in Cahors, in pictures

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Three Days in Cahors, in pictures Last week I spent three days in Cahors digging into the distinctive growing conditions of the region, as well as a wealth of local foods, and scenery.

I was also interviewed by an online news site, and a French newspaper while there. Here are the links to those articles.

Medialot: https://medialot.fr/vin-de-cahors-elaine-chukan-brown-sous-le-charme-des-terroirs-de-lappellation/

Ladepeche: https://www.ladepeche.fr/2019/09/28/en-ambassadrice-du-cahors-elle-va-exporter-ses-coups-de-coeur-aux-etats-unis,8444677.php

While traveling my own updates along the way were shared on Instagram. Here’s a look at my time in the region as shared while there.

 

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Valentré Bridge, Cahors – built over the Lot River in the 1300s the Valentré Bridge was meant to make crossing the river possible as well as to serve as a fortification against invaders. The bridge took over 70 years to build and still houses the cobbled walking table that was finished decades before its towers. The bridge took so long to finish it acquired a legend that its architect made a pact with the devil to help finish it only to then trick the devil out of the architect’s soul. The devil had to give up his quest for the soul but exacted revenge by delaying the towers’ completion. In the 1800s the man who restored the bridge had a small devil stone sculpture added into the bridge. The sculpture now serves as a draw for tourists who must look for the devil on the bridge in order to avoid being tricked by it. In the 1990s, Valentré Bridge was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It still serves as a foot bridge across the River Lot, and beneath it stand the locks that allow boat navigation through the incredibly windy river. #cahors #france #wine

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Soil Map of Cahors – the Lot River runs in a meandering path west through the region of Cahors revealing a complex of soils. The higher elevation terraces are dominated by limestone rock. As the slopes descend the limestone mixes with eroded sands. Clay emerges in the older terraces closer to the river. Then at the lowest and youngest terraces the ground is entirely new alluvial deposits. Within the various clays and eroded sands of the slopes and upper terraces are varied mineral deposits with some sections revealing an abundance of iron and others rare blue clay. Every turn of the river changes the cut of the slopes and terraces that edge the valley. The microclimates, then, are incredibly varied across the region too. The result is a complex of growing conditions for the region’s home variety, Malbec. #cahors #france #wine

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The Three Terraces, Cahors – the Lot River has cut a meandering path through the region of Cahors creating two distinct zones for growing vines. At lower elevations, closer to the river and to the town of Cahor itself stands the valley. Along each side of the valley are steep slopes with high elevation plateaus at their top. The valley area is further considered defined by three distinct zones of soil architecture. These soil zones vary by parcel in terms of exact mineral content but the overall architecture distinguishes one from another. In Cahors these zones are called terraces but the name does not imply a cut terrace or step as we often think that word implies, but instead a level of soil development based on the soil age from the eroding effects of the river. Seen here in the first photo, the third terrace is the oldest and closest to the slopes. It is also by far the rockiest with a wealth of rough cut limestone rocks that have broken off from the upper plateaus and slopes and settled onto alluvial sands deposited by the river. The second terrace was formed by the previous movements of the river and includes salacious cobbles exposed by the movements of the river mixed through with alluvial sands deposited by the river. The second terrace is also rocky but not as much so as the third. The first, and youngest, terrace seen here in the third photo is young alluvium deposited most recently by the river. It has very little clay and is mostly dry sands with little water holding capacity. Today each of these terraces include vines growing different levels of wine quality with the least expensive (and also friendliest) wines coming primarily from the first terrace thanks to the comparatively easier farming. The rockier terraces are profoundly challenging to farm but also provide more comparable depth and complexity in the wines. #cahors #france #wine

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Home pork in cellar, Cahors #cahors #france #wine

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Château de Mercuès – the castle above the village of Mercuès was built in the 13th century on the site of a chapel from the 7th century. It was built to serve as a summer home for the region’s’ bishops, who worked for the Church but also had enormous political power as feudal lords in the region. It remained a retreat of this sort until the legal separation of church and state in France in the early 20th century. It then became a home for a Parisian doctor until finally becoming a hotel after World War II. Today, it is also a winery. The castle stands at around 1000 ft elevation overlooking the Lot Valley and its river above the village of Mercuès. My room is honest to god at the top of the tower to the left. #cahors #france #wine

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I like to pretend this actually says, Butter of Destiny. #cahors #france

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The Cahors Malbec Glass – the region of Cahors has its own glass that includes a ring in its stem. It was created 15 years ago by the consortium to celebrate the collaboration of the region’s winemakers to improve the region. The ring has come to be a sort of Rorschach test with people seeing the meaning of the ring in a range of ways. Suggested interpretations are everything from pop culture “the one ring” references, to ideas of balance And unity, to “it is easier to bring wine with you when you ride horseback if there is a hole for your finger to hold the glass.” (Now I need to drink wine on horseback.) As the wine of the region shares its name with the region, the glass has come to be identified not only with the wine but the region itself. #cahors #france

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Clos Triguedina White, 2015 and 2017 – one of the unexpected wine styles I have come to appreciate on this trip is a white blend I am starting to believe is uniquely identified with Cahors. While the AOC is red wine only, a few people grow Viognier and Chardonnay in high elevation limestone and treat them as a blend. It is bottled as IGP or Vin de France. The example from Triguedina is a real stand out bringing together the strengths of the two varieties with the advantages of chalk in complementary balance. Here, the finesse of Chardonnay marries to the oiliness of Viognier in the freshness and tension of chalk for a distinctive expression with elegance and length. Other examples I have had so far of either variety on its own or in blend from the high elevation plateaus of Cahors also carry that fresh restraint from the chalk in a pleasing and regionally distinctive way. The two together in this kind of balance feels like something that can’t be replicated anywhere else, which is both exciting and intriguing. This is a beautiful wine. #cahors #france #wine @clostriguedina

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The Baldès Family – Jean-Luc, Juliette, Sabine, Clos Triguedina, Cahors – Clos Triguedina has been producing wine since the 1830s, with 7 generations of vintners, 5 generations bottling their own wine, making them one of the longest family-winery histories in the region for modern Cahors. The region has been growing wine since the 6th century. The Baldès family also have been forerunners in the region with preserving old vines, producing white wine of high quality, selling wine of Cahors internationally, and bottling single vineyard Malbec. Jean-Luc’s grandfather and great grandfather together bottled their wine to sell in the region. Jean-Luc’s grandfather was the first in Cahors to sell wine in the US. With his father Jean-Luc brought back a Medieval practice local to the region of drying Malbec to make what they call The New Black Wine. Juliette has just started harvest becoming the 7th generation of vintner in the family. They explain the name of their winery goes back to a local idea of food and community. The region has its own dialect. It also sits on the Camino trail. The name Triguedina is the phrase pilgrims on the trail used to say when they were asking residents of Cahors for a meal. #cahors #france #wine @clostriguedina

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Iron Stones, Cahors – Cahors has done extensive analysis of the parent material and soils of the region. They continue to use these studies to understand the specificity of unique parcels and sub-zones of Cahors, and are working on developing more ways to communicate these studies through soil maps and more. Here, an example of what in French they call Siderolithique Iron, or Hard Iron Stones. These stones appear in less than 6% of Cahors, though there are also areas where iron rich sands from the full decomposition of these stones appears, or where iron appears mixed through with limestone. The iron that is found in Cahors comes from the inland mountains of France where volcanic activity helped form the region. These particular Siderolithique Stones appear at around 305 meters / 1000 ft on the upper plateaus of the region. The wines from these sites tend to have a smokey-chalky character with very fine, palate covering tannin. #cahors #france #wine

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The view from the plateau near Luzech – if you zoom in here you can find vineyards on all three terraces, as well as the slopes. Starting with the River Lot at the bottom of the photo you will see the 1st terrace just above it. Then to the left a rolling landscape begins to emerge revealing the 2nd terrace. Behind that, closer to the hills on the other side of the valley rises the third terrace. Then, the hills go up the other side of the valley. Near the top of these hills, near the top of the photo towards the left, if you zoom in you can see vineyard planted in the slopes. Historically all the slopes of Cahors were planted to vineyard. Today mostly the slopes are forest as it is expensive to grow vines on them but some younger generations have begun to return to the slopes. They have started to call vineyards on these slopes, the 4th terrace. At the very top, on the flat crests of the hills it is the plateaus. #cahors #france #wine

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Clos du Chêne, Cahors – Tasting through the 2016 line-up of Malbec from Clos du Chéne in the western stretch of Cahors. Clos du Chêne is a long standing family Estate with generations of winemakers. The vines are planted in the first terrace of alluvial sands. Wines from these soils tend to be a bit friendlier and do well avoiding new oak. Clos du Chêne captures this character nicely with aging in larger oak vessels or without oak entirely instead using a mix of egg shaped, non-wood vessels. The2016 vintage wines from Cahors offer a nice sense of natural concentration and depth, compared to the far lighter, leaner 2017s, with further characteristics shifting by site and producer. #cahors #france #wine

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The Cahors Market, charcuterie – sampling dried meats at the Cahors Market. #cahors #france #wine

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The Cloisters, Cathedral St Etienne, Cahors #cahors #france #wine

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Being interviewed by French media about my views on wine and Cahors #cahors #france #wine

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Bruno Jouves, Rico’chai, Cahors – Bruno Jouves spent over twenty years hunting hillsides, forests, old vineyards, abandoned sites searching for two white grape varieties – Noual, and Plot – native to the valley of the Lot River, and Cahors. He had read about, then studied what he could of the varieties in centuries-old historical texts. Both are so obscure that after so much time he finally found two plants of each. He has continued to slowly expand from those first plants to around 60 of Noual, and 18 vines of Plot. He is currently one of the only, if not the only, producer to work with either white variety though he has since also given plants to the region’s research vineyard so that both can be preserved and other producers can plant them as well. #cahors #france #wine

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The Plateau, Cahors – Kelli says it’s hot and time to sleep. #cahors #france #wine

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Morning in Cahors – it has been a rich, while quick, visit to Cahors, + has left me intrigued + interested in the continued growth + potential of the region’s wines. It feels like a French paradox – the last uncharted, great region of France. History has told us repeatedly of the incredible talent intrinsic to Cahors. Circumstances of the last century – phylloxera in the late 1800s, followed by the profound limitations of grafting + rootstock, then the impact of both World Wars – mean the region lost several generations, that is a tome of knowledge + experience, of wine growing insight. Since the 1960s, the people of Cahors have worked to rebuild the infrastructure, practices + communion of winemakers to reclaim the wines of Cahors. Tasting through the region (I managed to get in 50 – 80 wines a day, most in or beside their vineyards) feels like catching glimpses of the region’s greatness re-emerging. Studying the growing conditions + history, then driving the area, feels like spotting the specter of potentially great vineyard sites through the hillsides. Indeed in places the faint glimmer of stone walls that used to outline historic vineyards can still be seen through the forests of today. Farming + vinification practices are coming home. Farmers here are swiftly converting to organics and biodynamics. No till viticulture is taking hold. Concrete vats and vessels as well as foudre, with an interest in greater transparency, are filling cellars. It’s been a worthwhile visit. This last morning I have the chance to gather my thoughts a bit + indulge in breakfast in bed. My health has been mixed while here. I have struggled with feeling ill the whole trip while taking greater flexibility with my diet too. The combination makes travel both more special + more poignant. Feeling the fragility that comes with health issues means staying vigilant over if my health is crossing any warning lines, while also accepting discomfort as manageable. It also means greater appreciation for the opportunity of a trip like this. And a greater commitment to the clarity, care + integrity of work I value. Thank you to Cahors for having me. I am grateful. #cahors #france #wine

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Enjoyed following your trip, especially as I was in Cahors visiting Triguedina, Château du Cedrè, and Château de Chambert the day after your visit. Tasting wine from each of the three levels of soil development was !!!

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