If I had to choose one organic producer in France I continually go back to, it has to be Julien and Sophie Ilbert at Combel La Serre in Cahors. Their red wines range from polished and approachable to complex and nuanced. I’ve yet to try the Malbec rosé but have my name in to take three from the 2021 vintage.
Situated 17 kilometers from Cahors, most of their vineyards are located on a higher elevation plateau dominated by limestone (calcaire). They call this plateau the Causse Calcaire. Eroded sands and clay/clay loam compliment the limestone in this area.
You may or may not know of the ‘terraces’ in Cahors. There are three in the region. They don’t refer to a terrace in the sense of one being cut into a hillside, but are zones of soil with distinct levels of soil development based on age and eroding effects of the meandering Lot river.
Julien makes three terrace wines: Au Cerisier, Le Lac Au Cochons, and Les Peyres Levades. Each have their own story and today I share Au Cerisier.
From a single parcel of red clay on a limestone base at 350 meters (1,150 feet), this wine is about freshness, energy and flavor. There happens to be a cherry tree (Cerisier) in the vineyard, thus the name.
It pours deep, purply-ruby. Medium (+) intensity red and black cherry, blackberry, wild forest berries, pine and cinnamon dust aromas are shy at first then become more pronounced after an hour. The palate is energetic, juicy, and rich with the same fruits, pepper hints, silky tannins and a finish that stays with you. Fresh and round with great depth and length.
To give you a visual, I take you to a favorite past time: hiking in the Northern California foothills closer to the Pacific Coast. As I near the woods thick with pine, cedar and/or Redwood trees there are ripe and aromatic wild mixed berry bushes on either side. Once in, I smell sweet forest spices and pine coming from all the growth, and fresh green peppercorns (although they do not grow there). Exiting the forest I stumble, creating a puff of dry dust. I feel energized hiking in this area. Bottle that up and you have this wine!
This is the lightest of the three Combel La Serre terroir wines yet the medium-acidity and body give it plenty of umph to last eight to ten years. A gorgeous wine indeed!
While I enjoyed it with pizza, it will pair with white meats, bean dishes, grilled vegetables and a variety of Mediterranean foods. Stay away from hot spices!
Vinification: Hand harvested grapes; fermentation with ambient yeasts; about a 20-day maceration followed by aging in cement tanks for 18 months which let the fruit speak for itself. Just 8,000 bottles made. EcoCert certified organic.
How to enjoy a wine evening solo
Ultimately, wine enjoyment is about mood, food and timing and last night this wine collided with the three.
Hubby was out with a friend, I opted for my favorite pizza (with stracciatella, arugula and truffle oil) versus cooking, lit candles, put on chill lounge music as it poured rain and savored this bottle with the pizza. I highly recommend this method.
Before we go…
Combel La Serre has 1 hectare of Vermentino from which they make a stunning white wine. And they will plant Albariño very soon for another white!
Remember to always Savor the Harvest!