With the current focus on Argentine Malbec, I feel genuinely bad for the wines of Cahors, the region in southwestern France that Malbec calls home. Cahors is a full-bodied red wine made from grapes grown in or around the town of Cahors in France. The region was granted AOC status in 1971. As I mentioned previously, the principal grape variety used in Cahors wines is Malbec, which must make up a minimum of 70% of the wine, and which is known locally as Côt, Côt Noir or Auxerrois. It can be supplemented by up to 30% Merlot and Tannat. Because of the high percentage of Malbec in the wine, Cahors wines can be rather tannic when young, and benefit from long aging. Approximately 4,200 hectares (10,000 acres) are under vine in Cahors. Officially, the Cahors AOC may only be used for red wines. There is a small amount of white and rosé wine produced in the region, and it is sold under the designation Vin de Pays du Lot, not Cahors.

Winemaking in Cahors goes back to the time of the Romans, with evidence of grape cultivation extending back as far as 50 B.C. Wine production has been continuous since then, which underscores the importance of the region in France. During the Middle Ages, the wine of Cahors was called “the black wine of Lot” (named for the river that flows throught the region) and it was a wine of significant importance in France. It was on the wedding tables at the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine with Henry II of England. Pope John XXII, born at Cahors, made it his table and sacramental wine. Francis I of France appreciated it to the point of delegating to the Cahorsin vintners the task of creating the vineyard of Fontainebleau. The Russian Emperor Peter I of Russia drank Cahors and the Russian Orthodox Church adopted it as its sacramental wine. Since the wine’s introduction to the court of England, Cahors wine even became a formidable competitor to Bordeaux wine. The Bordelais vintners attempted to prevent the sale of Cahors wine before All Saints Day to stop its production, but Louis XVI resolved the conflict by providing mediation between the “warring” vintners.

Like many other winemaking regions in France, Cahors was devastated by the Great French Wine Blight in the late 19th century, when grape vines across France were attacked by the phylloxera root-louse epidemic. Cahors fell victim to the disease between 1883-1885 and it was at this point the vine found its way to South America. Cahors had another brush with disaster In February of 1956, when frosts wiped out nearly all the vineyards in the region. A massive replanting effort was undertaken and as a result, the composition of grape varieties changed substantially, giving Malbec its dominant status.

The Cuvée Maurin is classic Cahors – full throttle, with massive quantities of firm, dry tannin and a dense, dark core of fruit – spectacular with prodigious aging potential. Knowing the above history, the wine “feels Medieval” and seems like it would be quite at home on the tables of Popes and Kings alike. The best part – at an average per bottle price of $17.99, this wine is a tremendous value.

My tasting note:

Powerful nose – dense and earthy with dried herb, currant and anise hints. Full-bodied with moderate acidity and firm, dry tannin – good balance. Massive – tight with plumy fruit and cedar, tar and rosemary notes. Wow! Long finish with a jam-packed aftertaste – very  tight – needs time, perhaps 10 to 15 years before the wine will really shine. Outstanding!