Cahors, Southwest France
Cahors has been experiencing a renaissance of late. This beautiful and historic region is the ancestral home of the Malbec grape, here called Cȏt. Throughout the Middle Ages the wines outranked Bordeaux in prestige, and grapes from the area were often used to beef up the color and backbone of Bordeaux’s garnet-colored wines. It took phylloxera in the late 1800s to reduce the amount of acreage under vine and the area never fully recovered. Which is a shame, because this appellation, snug between the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees, and the Mediterranean, is capable of making phenomenal wines. The red soils, based on limestone but flush with iron oxides, accounts for the extraordinary minerality that anchors the region’s best wines.
Cathy and Daniel Fournié of Château Haut-Monplaisir farm 74 acres, 10 of which are classified as IGP Côtes du Lot while the remainder is all appellation Cahors. Since 2009, all of these parcels have been farmed organically, and certification came in 2012. Daniel went from conventional to organic viticulture and in the process became absolutely convinced that the latter has profoundly improved the health of his vines and their fruit.
All of Château Haut-Monplaisir’s vines grow in various parcels surrounding the domain on what the locals call the third terrace of the valley floor. These terraces, or benches, sit on limestone bedrock and are layered alluvial gravel deposits left by glaciers. There are three such terraces in the valley; the third is the highest, furthest from the Lot river, and the second is considered to be the best by virtue of its well-drained soils. Above the third terrace come the mountain vineyards, high on the oak-scrub hills.
Cathy Fournié took over the vineyards in 1998 from her father, who had sold the crop to négociants. She and Daniel had a keen interest in making their own wine but realized they needed help. They reached out to Pascal Verhaeghe, the dynamic proprietor of Château du Cèdre, a neighbor. Pascal immediately saw the potential of Haut Monplaisir’s site. He could also see that if great wine were made here then Cahor’s revival would be all the more successful, and that was far more important to him than possible competition between the two domains. Thus was born the partnership between Pascal and Daniel, who together are responsible for the wines of Haut Monplaisir.
The grapes are always de-stemmed and the juice is never acidified. The result is a hearty range of wines with a distinct sense of refinement. These are wines with a brooding, high-toned quality of wild elegance, and full of Cahor’s telltale iron-rich minerality.
Haut-Monplaisir Cahors Cuvee Tradition 2015
100% Malbec. Tradition is the first or introductory wine from Haut-Monplaisir. As with all the domain’s cuvées, this is 100% Malbec. Tradition is made and raised primarily in concrete vats, with 10-20% raised in neutral barrels. Aromatically intense, with rich spicy mineral fruit, this is a long, earthy rendition of Malbec. Production averages 4,200 cases