Wine Talk

Snooth User: Carly Wray

Cahors Malbec

Posted by Carly Wray, May 25, 2010.

I've just returned from the International Malbec Days in Cahors, a festival meant to elevate the profile of "original" Malbec, and offer insight into the relationship between old world and new world expressions of the varietal.

I'll be writing more about both the trip and the region, but for now, I wanted to offer highlights. I had limited exposure to French Malbec prior to the festival, and with good reason -- the majority of the region's producers have little-to-no distribution in the United States. There was much discussion about why this is the case, and what must be done about it; I have a feeling the newest generation of Cahors winemakers (who seem to favor soft tannins, gregarious fruit, and labeling by varietal) will be the first to see their products on more American lists and shelves.

There were plenty of wines that recommend the region, but I was most impressed by the Mas del Perie Les Escures 2006 -- a lovingly-balanced, black-fruit beauty with powerful violet and fir tree aromas -- the 2007 Chateau du Cedre, and the 2005 and 2003 Clos Triguedina Probus.

I know there was some discussion of old world Malbec in a separate general-Malbec thread, but I figured this one should live on its own. Do you have any favorites from Cahors that you would recommend, or that you feel make a case for the region itself?

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Reply by John Andrews, May 25, 2010.

I don't have any but I certainly look forward trying a few.  I hope distribution of these wines make it out to California. 

Reply by dmcker, May 25, 2010.

There are two past threads on Malbec that have developed legs in this forum. They both focus most on Argentine malbecs because of their current popularity in the states, especially at a relatively low price point. The one that is very pertinent to this discussion, however, is here. I talk in it about the Prince Probus, as well as its Triguiedina sibling, The New Black Wine, in some detail, including with food matches.

Snooth needs to figure a way to link better to all the pertinent and useful content that's gone into past threads. I have no desire to just regurgitate here what I wrote there. Perhaps you should remind Mark and Philip of my idea of a Wine Wiki, Carly. It would certainly help here.

In general, though, you're on a very good theme here. I much prefer French malbec to that from South America, though American palates have generally been educated to appreciate the softer, fruitier, sweeter versions from Argentina. Ultimately they provide less pleasure to me then the more structured, ageworthy wines of France, which will certainly lay down in cellar better than the Argentinian versions. You should also look towards Loire and the 'Cot' (malbec in local parlance) wines made there. Domaine Ricard and particularly Clos Roche Blanche, made from century old vines, are good ones to try from there.

Reply by amour, May 25, 2010.

Well done CarlyWray!


I have also written at length on Malbec on other threads.

It is interesting how the growers and producers of Cahors Malbec have tried to unite on the new marketing thrust, which is premised on ....Malbec belongs to CAHORS/France, The Black Wine and deep dark secrets,  young enthusiastic wine-lovers.

Did they actually say that one can expect aggressive marketing by Cahors in the USA market?

I was reliably informed that that was the case.

And did you meet any of the invited Argentines?

The French do invite them to the Malbec Day.

Enough....gone are the days when I would contribute at length.


Reply by Carly Wray, May 26, 2010.

Amour, I was able to meet some of the invited Argentines; there were several interesting panels that had French and Argentine winemakers discussing the differences in their terroir, and in their approach to the American market (or, more specifically, the American palate).

It certainly seems that the younger winemakers are now making a strong push to market their wines in the US -- I'm very curious to see if it will work.

I read in another thread that you were a fan of the Chateau Chambert, and I have to agree, it was indeed one of my favorites.

Reply by zufrieden, May 28, 2010.

This is a very useful forum, Carly.  Like some of my friends who have already replied, I have a reasonably pronounced preference for the more subdued, elegant style of Cahors (though rusticity is not necessarily absent in these wines - if that what one seeks).  You were lucky to have the opportunity to travel to such an off-the-beaten track location - known for its rural setting.  I have not yet visited this region myself, though I may do so in the next year or two - depending on whether my buddy in Paris is free from domestic life to travel a bit in his own country.

I would be interested in more detail from you regarding your take on the style in France as opposed to the lake emerging from the Argentine - some ladles of which are of astoundingly good quality.

Reply by dmcker, May 28, 2010.

I'm with Zuf in asking for any more detail you're able to share, Carly....

Reply by Philippe Lejeune, Jun 3, 2010.

Hi All,

I'm Philippe Lejeune from Chateau Chambert; I love these posts; the real people (the drinkers) sharing their views! It's been a very busy time for all of us during these Malbec Days. After that  some of us (like me) had to leave directly to the airport heading to Hong-Kong; it's takes much traveling for presenting our Malbec wines!

These Malbec Days in Cahors were great and intense; we all needed more time to cover the Malbec subject. Carly: looking forward seeing you when you come back...for shooting your calendar (I just saw your video with Anthony Rose & Finkus Bripp)!

Any of you looking for a a real summer break; come to Cahors; it's a lovely area; quiet and just remote enough from the big cities to rest well. Sometimes the cell phone doesn't work (yes Carly we missed our meeting, I know!).

Next time I'm coming to NY I'll bring few bottles (what about a Chambert vertical back to 1978, who's for it?! The estate dates back to 1690 but those bottles are long gone...). There are few other great Cahors winemakers that would love coming over with me, can't Snooth throw a Malbec vertical event; we bring the bottles , the truffles, the foie gras, you manage the event!

Next monday I'm throwing my party in my castle: I'll show to the French press and long-time customers my upcoming 2008 vintage...and I'll open the event with my electric guitar! I'm a music over, this is why I loved so much Carly video Finkus Bripp shooted in Cahors, have a look!

Cheers all

Philippe Lejeune / Chateau Chambert - Cahors, France

Reply by nvansicklen, Jun 3, 2010.

Phillippe, you just got my thirsty and excited for a trip to NYC (or even the Snooth offices). 

Reply by dmcker, Jun 3, 2010.

Philippe, your vertical idea sounds excellent, whether in New York or Cahors! Or Tokyo, for that matter, where I am now, if you ever make it past Hong Kong, that is....

Reply by Philippe Lejeune, Jun 3, 2010.

Tokyo? Well not that soon: I did Cahors-China twice in the past 2 weeks and my body struggles to recover! But NYC/Snooth offices or Cahors definitely! My son is learning Japanese and planning a trip I focus on wine! BTW: While in HK last week, we had hail stones in Cahors; luckily Chambert was safe (this time); but other friends winemakers got badly hit (like Mas Del Perié talented young winemaker with 10ha over 14ha gone in few minutes). Last week in HK was also challenging...rice Alcohol: 50%vol!

Reply by dmcker, Jun 3, 2010.

Guess I'll have to schedule a trip to SW France in the not-too-distant future. I guess Greece, Italy and the Balearics might have to wait... ;-)

Reply by dmcker, Jun 3, 2010.

BTW, Philippe, I didn't mention before but it's great to see you on this forum, here. I checked out your website, and would love to hear anything more you have to share about your winemaking, its aims and how you do things (how you use your oak, etc., etc.).

I also saw that it's possible to order wine directly from your winery. Can I assume then that you can arrange shipment overseas (e.g. to Japan)?

Reply by StevenBabb, Jun 3, 2010.

this was a great topic/post/reply....

might i be bold and sugest the vertical take place in San Francisco???

i could play tour guide....   : )

Reply by outthere, Jun 3, 2010.

Now we're talking!

Reply by Philippe Lejeune, Jun 4, 2010.

To all: yes I'll be pleased to detail what I do, and the vision behind all the actions; winemaking is a very lenghty process (I'm referring to the whole work including years of vineyard observation with incremental changes daily); it's like beeing at the wheel of a tanker ship: any action has no immediate effect but you better take the right turns and at the right time! If only you could be in Cahors next Monday you'd attend my conference where I'll just cover this in details!

BTW: Yes we do arrange overseas shipment (but for small quantities we have no other choice than UPS / FedEx which bumps price up, but technically yes it's possible).

Now here is a first post about what I do ; many posts could follow...but should it fall into that forum section? Below "lesson/tip" refers to what I do because I want it that way; anyone not agreeing can be right; we're in a free world! My sole goal is to put in the bottle the most refined and elegant wine my vineyard can produce. I want my wine precise, subtle, fresh, classic; I want people to talk at lenght about it rather than sip and forget it. Wine is about emotion; I want it in the bottle. What a great moment when you discover complexity, hidden behind what you could at first sip think just a good wine. I like this kind of game: great wine but not BIG so only the one paying attention get the reward! Like approaching a wild animal or watching an early sunrise; it takes a little effort to have it!


Okay, lessons then...

Winemaking take #1: the major work at the at the vineyard! I mean outside, working and babysitting each vine. Producing a wine of character requires the best expression of you vineyard (yes we often bundle all this in the 'terroir' concept). Because each year is different (hot/cold weather; rain, hailstone,...) we have to act accordingly: meaning adding (or not) organic compost to some plots. As we work organically, we do not spray any weed killer and mechanically trim/remove the grass where needed. We also decide (for each plot) for the amount of grass we keep between each row. This balances the amount of water left for the vines. In Cahors (and mostly any place in France) we're not allowed to water the vines; so these practices are critical.

Winemaking take #2: Vines are sensible to many deseases and one common solution vineyards use is to spray copper (bouillie bordelaise). To minimize the amount of copper spraid, there are some basic tips (eg: when spraying the leaves, use a collector behind them so to catch all drops that didn't reach a leaf; it avoids the extra copper falling down, and also reduces the amount of copper used); more advanced techniques consist in spraying the copper with other components so to increase the effect. It's like taking coffee with aspirin; the mix magnifies the effect! As we're working with biodynamic, we do spray the copper with plants mixture. The result is better efficency, and less copper used. A real win-win situation. Another tip is when spraying copper, add some clay in the mix; so the clay acts as "glue" when there is humidity. This avoids the copper to slide too quickly from the leaf and therefore remains efficient longer. You see, there are many tricks to help the earth and keep the vineyard clean! All this is just the tip of the iceberg...

Well this is it for this very first Chambert lesson! Did you find it interesting? If so, I can continue in next post!


Cahors Malbec Cheers!

Reply by Carly Wray, Jun 4, 2010.

Philippe! What an excellent post. It's a pleasure to have you here in our forum.

I've been looking forward to hearing more about Chateau Chambert since the second I tasted it. I'll definitely have to come back for that calendar shoot. ;)

As for this:

I like this kind of game: great wine but not BIG so only the ones paying attention get the reward!

I couldn't agree more. This is also my favorite approach to wine; I appreciate big, bold, single-statement bottles, but my favorites are the quiet, subtle wines that demand attention, focus, and openness on behalf of the drinker. For anyone who hasn't tried them, the Chateau Chambert work both ways: They're delicious up front and increasingly engaging throughout.  

And as for my further impressions about the differences between the expression of Malbec in Cahors vs. Argentina, the Cahors wines, on the whole, tell a darker, earthier story than their new world counterparts. This is partially why they haven't found as great a purchase with the American palate.

I found crushed violet and white petals, wet grass & soil, menthol, truffle, and even fir tree on the nose far more often than the rich, friendly, forward-leaping fruit so present in most of the Argentine bottles. Many of the "more traditional" (or so I'm told) Cahors have very hefty tannins that make it difficult to envision enjoying an entire bottle. During a discussion with the winemaker from Mas del Perie, he was emphatic that he wanted nothing to do with the powerful tannins of old.

Philippe, I'd love to hear your take on how Cahors wines have changed in the past 20 years. A major theme of the conference seemed to be focused on how far the wines have come over the years - do you see a movement towards the "approachability" of Argentine Malbec?

Reply by dmcker, Jun 4, 2010.

Thanks for the extra notes, Carly. There are tannins and then there are tannins. And those in Cahors are what make them far more serious wines to me than the often-insipid, sodapoppy versions from the Argentine. This is a subject for considerably more discussion. Perhaps PHilippe can weigh in....

But first, Philippe, please do continue with your excellent explanation of your approach in the vineyard. I'm definitely looking forward to more installments!

Reply by zufrieden, Jun 4, 2010.

Excellent response to the forum.  And many wonderful, personable, warm and informative posts from Philippe.  I was a little busy these past few days and was amazed but immensely gratified to see the interest in this tucked-away region of France.

Dare we expect more?

I was also happy to hear that the fir and cypress are noted by noses other than my own when sniffing at the wines of Cahors!

Reply by Philippe Lejeune, Jun 9, 2010.

Hi All,

I'm back: I've been very busy lately; with all the follow(up after Vinexpo Hong-Kong; presenting my 2008 last Monday...and yesterday with a meeting for the futur 'Grand Cru' of Cahors. In France, the use of 'Premier CRU' or 'Grand CRU' is restricted by law, and a long certification process...cahors is working on it; so in few years you may see the first labels showing CRU on it!

Tonight I'll fome back for my next post; I'll cover more about what I do at Chambert and why, so to explain how we work to get the best out of the vineyard. It's very interesting, and stay tuned, for tonight's next tip of Chambert. I have to leave you now; a glass of Chambert 2008 is coming to me for a tasting...and I can't refuse it: as it was just poored I can smell the fruits & spices of this fresh Malbec by my side (3 feet away)...yummy!

So stay tuned for tonight post.



Reply by StevenBabb, Jun 9, 2010.

congrats on getting the ball rolling on the CRU status! and good luck with the lengthy process....

your great knowledge and insight are much appreciated here.... i'm am constantly reading and trying to learn as much as i can about all things relating to wine...

merci beaucoup, Philippe....

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