Cahors: My first love

Way back in 2004 or so, when I was first getting into wine, I fell in love with Cahors. I wish I could remember which wine did it, but I wasn’t taking notes at that point — all I remember is that it was earthy and rustic and utterly enchanting. Ever since that moment, I’ve snapped up every Cahors I can afford — and they’re not easy to find. So I was particularly excited to hear about a Cahors tasting in D.C. last week.

Cahors seems annoyed that Argentina has managed to position itself as the king of Malbec, if its current marketing push (“Cahors Is Malbec!”) is any indication. It’s intriguing to me that a French AOC is emphasizing a varietal, but that seems to be what the U.S. market (at least) wants right now — Lord knows it’s worked for Argentina. That said, here are a few of my favorites.

Chateau de Hauterive Prestige 2007: Bouquet of ripe summer berries with woodsy undertones. Smoky, spicy, tannic and food-friendly.

Chateau Armandiere 2002 Diamant Rouge: Gorgeous rustic, earthy nose with plum, blackberry. Robust, complex, mouth-filling. Yum!

Chateau Vincens 2006 Prestige: Bouquet of big, dark, plush fruits. Rich mouthfeel with flavors of blackberry preserves, baking spices; big and spicy.

Chateau St. Sernin 2008 Varua Maomi Mana: This is not the type of label one expects from a French wine. The winemaker is Tahitian by birth; I like how he’s integrated his heritage into his brand. Nose is toasty and yeasty with bread dough overtones — not what I expected from a 100% Cahors Malbec. On the palate, big dark fruits melt into smoky, spicy flavors. Nice balance.

Clos Troteligotte 2005 K-Prix: Lovely fruity nose — plum, blueberry, oak, spice. Softer than its contemporaries but still nicely acidic. Flavors of pepper, plum, earth and spice with woodsy notes. I really, really liked this one. Retails at about $18 — look for it!

Chateau Les Rigalets 2002 La Quintessence: Big, rustic bouquet with anise and barnyard aromas. Lots going on here; palate carries pepper, thyme, wood and blackberry with robust tannins. Drink this with game or rare/medium-rare red meats that can stand up to it.

Chateau Paillas 2007 Cahors: Plum and blackberry on the nose with metallic/mineral notes. Very tannic and mouth-filling; acidic, herbal, vegetal. I don’t even really know how to describe this one besides “I love it.” It stuck with me.

In short: If you like Malbec and are not yet acquainted with Cahors, you need to fix that. It’s hard to go wrong with these wines, and they’re great values — most of the wines I tasted at this event were under $40 or even under $20. Here’s hoping it catches on!

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