The vineyards of Cahors are among the oldest in France, enjoying great fame as early as the fifth century. This French wine could be shipped throughout the world without loss of quality because it was robust, complex, and highly concentrated. Consequently wine from Cahors was much prized in America but especially in Tsarist Russia.
Nothing happened around Cahors for many years after the phylloxera epidemic of the late nineteenth century, with the vineyards falling into neglect and little more than 'plonk' for daily consumption being produced. A halt was called to this neglect after World War II.
The vineyards lie between the 44th and 45th parallel. This latitude guarantees a fine, full-bodied wine in the northern hemisphere.
Other important influences on the success of the vineyards is their position midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. This protects them from the moist influence of the westerly winds and from the generally rainy autumn weather of the Mediterranean climate, so that the grapes can ripen fully. There are two different soil types for Cahors: the valley of the Lot has underlying chalk with a topsoil of alluvium with outcrops of boulders and scree; and the chalk uplands or Causses with a fairly shallow upper layer of stones and marl.
Only red wine is produced in Cahors. The basic grape variety is the Auxerrois, which is also known elsewhere as Cot Noir. This must be a minimum 70 per cent of the vines in order to qualify for AC Cahors status. The Auxerrois imparts the backbone to this French wine, the strong tannin, its colour, and its potential for ageing.
Traditional Cahors red is made using solely Auxerrois or this grape combined with Tannat (known from Madiran and Irouleguy) which has many of the characteristics of Auxerrois. The more modern style of wine often contains a substantial amount of Merlot, which makes this French wine more rounded, more comforting, and more aromatic.
The modern style Cahors is best drunk while young. Its tannin makes it the perfect accompaniment for goose and duck. Drink this good french wine at 14°C (57.2°F).
The tradition-style Cahors is much broader and complex. If drunk while young this French wine is dominated by tannin so it is better to wait five to ten years with better wines. These are rounder, velvet soft, fullbodied, and powerful. The bouquet is much finer when more mature. Drink this French wine at 16°C (60.60.8°F).