Bill’s Best Bets – January 2018

Duck, Duck, Moose
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Quebec is an odd place within North America with respect to wine. We drink lots, more than anywhere else on the continent, and spend more money per bottle. But we also drink more European wine than anyone else. And within the myriad of regions and countries, one appellation does better here than anywhere else in the world. That place is Cahors.

Located in France’s southwest, Cahors is known for malbec. While it has been appropriated and made famous by the Argentine wine industry, the grape is originally from much further north. It is still grown, though in small quantities, in Bordeaux and the Loire.

Back in the 14th Century, it was known as the “black wine” of France, and it was thought that many wines in Bordeaux were pumped up by Cahors-grown malbec, as it is a grape that has lots of dark colour, interesting and complex aromatics, and some solid tannin.

The fruit is always on the darker spectrum, and in many ways can mimic cabernet sauvignon with its cassis and blackberry. But it also often shows meatier and earthier notes, especially black liquorice. It can age as well, and of the 80 or so wines from Cahors listed on, many are available in the 2009-2014 vintages. Already-aged wine? Sign me up.

Cahors makes for excellent pairing opportunities. It will go with any red meat, but especially for those meats with a certain gaminess, like deer and other wild meats, it is even better. Real lamb and duck always has more flavour than beef, and Cahors will add to the cornucopia of flavours in your mouth.

So where to start? On the less expensive end of the  spectrum, try the 2015 Chatons de Cedre. With its 10% merlot in the blend, the texture is silky and while it isn’t as complex as more expensive wines, it’s a great introduction to the wines of the region.

Chatons du Cèdre 2015Clos La Coutale Cahors 2015Tradition Familiale George Vigouroux Malbec 2016

If you want more torque, then the Clos La Coutale will do the trick, and for less than $15! So juicy and full of dark fruits. I could give the same review to the 2016 Tradition Familiale from Georges Vigouroux.

For more aged wines, which show more of the complexity of the terroir, they can also be found under $20. The 2014 Coustarelle, Grand Prestige, shows more refined tannins as well as a hint more of the earthier notes. With even more age, try the 2011 Haut d’Aglans which is drinking really well. The tannins have started to integrate nicely, so this could even be drunk with vegetarian meals with tamari.

Château La Coustarelle Grande Cuvée Prestige 2014 Château Les Hauts d'Aglan 2011

If you can spend a bit more, the choice is exceptional. One of my favourite wineries is Cosse-Maisonneuve, and their three cuvees are all worth investigation. The La Fage is coming soon, but the Combal ($20) and Laquets ($42) are both exceptional. Le Combal offers up a beautiful texture, with more of the floral side of the grape. Les Laquets is simply majestic: so much fruit and complexity, with almost a new world feel due to the perfect ripeness.

La Fage 2012Le Combal 2014Les Laquets Cahors 2014

There are so many others. The 2015 Château Combel La Serre is a beautiful mix of finesse and power, with a chalkier, almost mineral finish. If you are more of a California wine lover, then try the 2014 Cuvee Particulier from Chateau Lamartine. Not sweet at all, just a rich texture with a touch more oak-driven flavours.

Château Combel La Serre Cuvée Château 2015Château Lamartine Cuvée Particulière 2014

Enjoy the cold folks, it’s almost February!


“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

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Vancouver International Wine Festival