The SOMM Journal

October/November 2014

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Page 38 of 120

38 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2014 A Renaissance in Cahors { steven spurrier's letter from London } THERE CAN BE FEW APPELLATIONS ACROSS THE WHOLE OF FRANCE TO HAVE suffered such extensive loss of vineyards and recognition over the past 100 years as has the histori- cal region of Cahors. Situated on both banks of the river Lot in the Lot and Quercy departments in bucolic Southwest France, there are 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres) classified as potential for AOP Cahors from a territory 28 miles east-west and 15.5 miles north-south encompassing 45 villages. In 2002 there were just 11,000 acres under vine and today only 8,000 acres form the Cahors AOP, due partly to continuing rooting up of vineyards, partly to the growers (encouraged by the dominant Côtes d'Olt Cave Cooperative) diversifying into the less strict IGP label. But at last, from this low point, change, in the hands of some determined producers, is afoot, which, with a little help from the French government's INAO (Institut National des Appellations Contrôlées), may soon have Cahors whispered about in the same tones as Burgundy. The city of Cahors, whose medieval Pont Valentré spanning the river Lot is a national monu - ment, was a powerful trading town, the surrounding vineyards producing wines of such density that they were known as vins noirs, or black wines. As such, many barrels found their way down river to Bordeaux, where they were blended with the lighter wines from Graves and Médoc to be shipped to appreciative palates in Britain and northern Europe. In the 19th century the steep terraces surrounded the city were all producing historically the finest wines. They have been aban - doned for decades and while they remain within the AOP, their only hope of being replanted is if the region succeeds, based on in-depth soil analysis, in persuading the INAO to classify vineyards The Pont Valentré in Cahors is a national monument.

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