Cahors was once the world’s most sought after wine, and Malbec the source of Cahors’ rise to fame and legendary reputation. Malbec is a premier red grape variety indigenous to southwest France. Reputed to have originated in Cahors, Malbec has since Roman times played the starring role in the deeply colored wines from Cahors, a small wine region above the river Lot whose wine earned the name, the “Black Wine” of France, no doubt on account of the wine’s impenetrable color and robust flavor. Cahors and the mighty Malbec varietal graced the tables of medieval kings and queens and was found in palaces around the world. Until the phylloxera epidemic ravaged the vineyards of Cahors in the late 19th century, as it did throughout Europe, Cahors was for centuries a wine of legend and lore.
Bordeaux also claims Malbec as an original son where it remains one of the original legal red wine grapes of red Bordeaux along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Merlot and Petit Verdot. In Bordeaux, Malbec is often referred to as Cot or Pressac. While Malbec rarely flies on its own any longer in Bordeaux with very few 100% varietal bottlings, Malbec still plays a supporting role in Bordeaux, where it adds color and body to many Bordeaux red wines.
In Cahors, Malbec still reigns supreme, but it is only since the last quarter of the 20th century that wines of Cahors have begun to reclaim their former place among the world’s finest wines. By law Cahors must contain a minimum of 70% Malbec, though the finest versions are often 90%. Tannat and Merlot are the appellation’s other legal grape varieties. Much of Cahors’ resurgence is due the tremendous investment and revitalization of vineyards, which have once again climbed back up the steep terraces above the river Lot. Thanks to the luxury brand Cartier, the erudite Georges Vigouroux, and many others, Cahors is returning to its former glory. Although not as rustic nor deeply colored as in days of yore, contemporary Cahors retains great color and robust flavor plus the added finesse of the finest red Bordeaux. In the future, Cahors may again be more synonymous with Malbec than neighboring Bordeaux or Argentina, where the latter now cultivates 70% of the world’s Malbec. But there is no need to wait to enjoy the truly fine wines of Cahors. They are again here and now.