The “Sud-Ouest” of France frequently presents us with surprises. We had no idea it’s a major area for truffles, that zen master Thich Nhat Hanh built his Plum Village there, or that the Dordogne Valley contained prehistoric cave paintings and medieval everything. Our rental even had a herd of alpacas.
Exploring the wine region of Cahors with friends was the plan until we stumbled upon the Coteaux de Quercy.
Duck is king in Quercy. Dishes like confit de canard and magret de canard aren’t shy, and neither are the wines. This ‘younger brother’ of Cahors became an official AOC October 29, 2011. Red wine is predominantly Cabernet Franc (60% by law) while Merlot, Tannat, and Malbec (Cot) make up the difference in any combination. Gamay makes an appearance but not more than 20%; it’s primarily used for dry rosé production.
Just south of both the town and AOC of Cahors, and between Bordeaux and Toulouse, rows of vines, orchards, and oceans of sunflowers are plenty. The area is rich with old villages to explore including the famous Lauzerte along with Moissac and it’s cloisters.
Query has a continental climate with maritime influences from the Atlantic. This means high sunshine levels and warmth in summer followed by cooler colder winters. Warm winds come summer and fall keeping vine grape mold and mildew to a minimum.
Two kinds of wines are made depending on where the grapes are grown. Fruitier and more approachable wines mean grapes came from the gravelly slopes between the limestone plateau and the rivers. Tannic, full-bodied and age worthy wines are those whose grapes grew on the limestone plateau, knows as the “Causses”.
We spent a chuck of time at the modern yet rugged Cave de Quercy, the only wine cooperative in the region. The winemaker, also the person covering the store, setting up tastings, taking those interested into the winemaking operations, and basically running most of the show himself (save the five employees who help during harvest) was more than gracious. He, Francois Jeansou is Director.
The Cave has about 40 producer members in what is called Les Vignerons de Quercy. These producers are grape farmers who work with and sell their grapes to the Cave. Francois works closely with each making sure varieties grown match the producers’ land for maximum quality. At harvest time, producer vineyard plots are worked individually. Once at the Cave, they are vinified individually too.
We started with a wine made only during exceptional vintages- the 2012 Collection Rouge, a blend of 52% Cabernet Franc, with the remainder being Tannat, Malbec and Merlot. The Bessy De Boissy Rouge contains the same grapes in differing amounts; maceration took place over six weeks followed by 24 months of barrel aging. Black berries, cassis, mocha, and tobacco aromas followed through to the rich, round palate with fine integrated tannins.
The 2014 Le Mas Rouge was particularly interesting. A blend of Tannat, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc, the wine was macerated and fermented for five weeks in new oak barrels, during which time the cap was punched down by hand, know “pigeage” in French. Afterwards, it spends 10 months in large stainless steel vats before bottling.
The result is quite aromatic: raspberries, blackberries, and sweet spice. A round mouth feel with an acidic backdrop followed by firm yet silky tannins linger. While this wine isn’t necessarily one to quaff while making dinner, it would work well with a charcuterie plate, grilled Entrecote, or a Moroccan Chicken Tagine, like the one just to the left.
Rounding out our trip was a visit to the Benedictine Cloister of Moissac Abbey Church, one of the oldest (11 A.D.) and largest cloister in the world. It’s a fairly well preserved example of Romanesque sculpture with 20 arches on the east and west, followed by 18 on the north and south.
Interesting Quercy Facts:
- 80% of the wine is red, the remainder is rosé
- The region is renowned for the quality of it’s lamb. The two main breads are Caussenarde du Lot and Lacaune. Strict regulations apply to the raising and slaugher of lamb.
- Quercy lamb was the first French lamb to obtain a ‘Label Régional’ stamp of guaranteed quality (about 1983). This stamp really introduced the ‘Label Rouge’, which is a guarantee for superior quality. The full description is Agneau Fermier du Quercy, Label Rouge/IGP. This differentiates lamb raised by farmers as opposed to industrialized production. The Agneau Fermier du Quercy is the agency that upkeeps and defends the rules surrounding Quercy lamb.
- Much of the Hundred Years War was fought in the Quercy area.
- You can indulge in a cooking class, grab a friend!
- For more information, check out The Quercy Local.