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25th Fête de Vins, Puy l’Eveque (Cahors)

Puy l’Eveque is one of the stunning villages in the Lot Valley, the region which used to be known as Quercy (check out agneau de Quercy, the local lamb, best cooked simply with just a little salt and pepper to appreciate its superb flavour). Each year the village hosts one of the strangest wine fairs I have ever attended (this was my second consecutive visit). Strange because of the way it is arranged: one table for local white, rosé and sweet wines (fair enough) and two for the reds, around 80 wines altogether.

The problem is that no estate may enter more than one wine so everyone is putting forward the wine they think will impress the most. Usually this is the blockbuster cuvée of old-vine Malbec with, perhaps, some Merlot to soften the blow (they tend to be very young wines so very tannic, especially once you hit double figures) or some Tannat (usually around 10%) which adds a fragrant cassis character. Bear in mind this is taking place at the start of August, the hottest time of the year, so it is no surprise that the lighter style, younger-vine, un-oaked wines such as Lamartine’s 2007 bottling (10% Merlot) tend to be the friendliest (this was a fruity, easy-drinking wine for a modest price).

That said, I wasn’t going to be put off the big guns and tried around 20-30 of them (rounding off with the sweeties to get my palate back). My very favourite was Haut-Monplaisir’s 100% Malbec (all their reds are mono-varietals) 2006 “Prestige” (actually, their very top wine is called “Pur Plaisir” but the Prestige is a step up from the standard cuvée). This is cropped at 40hl/ha and gently fermented at 27 ͦ and raised in 1/3 new barrels (and 1/3 second year, 1/3 third year) for around 20 months. Some oak is apparent but the overall impression is of a rich, sweet black-fruited wine which will come into its own in a couple of years. The vineyard is now “in conversion” to organic status (which, of course, means it has been making organic wines for years).

I also enjoyed the already organic 2006 “Malbec XL” from Haut-Monplaisir’s neighbour, Château Lacapelle-Cabanac which was very Malbec in character, very black and nicely oaked. Rouffiac’s “L’Exception” was aged 24 months in oak which was very apparent on the nose, accompanised by sweet, ripe fruit which followed through to the tannic palate (best from 2012, I thought).

The Tannat blends available to taste were lead by Coustarelle’s 2006 “Grande Cuvée Prestige” which had an interesting (ie. different) oak character to most which suggested time in the bottle could not be replaced with breathing the wine but it will undoubtedly be good. Eugenie always seem to make decent wines and their 2007 “Reservée de l’Aïeul”was no exception with the Tannat quite apparent on the well-balanced palate which was not too tannic. Very typical of the forward 2007 vintage.

Some I didn’t like, mainly those with too much Merlot included but it's bad form to single them out so I won't. Some others decent but overpriced which can be a problem in Cahors (last year we visited one prestigious estate whose wines were 19€ for the standard wine, 48€ for the next and 95€ for the top wine - it wasn't a first growth Bordeaux so I couldn't see how they could justify the last one).

Overall, a good couple of hours spent tasting a mixed bag of generally good wines with few exceptional ones. A couple of tips: if you go with kids, take a few sweets along with you (there is an opportunity to buy at 3€ per 100 grams which is rather excessive for Haribo!) and take a bottle of ice cold water for yourself as your palate will need refreshing every few wines!

Comments

  1. By the way, the 48€ wine mentioned here (2001 Château Lagrezette Cahors Cuvée Dame Honneur) was very much enjoyed a few days ago - here are my notes:

    15/01/2011: This is one of those wines you never quite know when to open (it cost 48€, rather more than I would usually think of spending, especially on a relatively unknown quantity). With a delicious piece of roast beef (from Archers of Norwich), I thought tonight's the night. Pulled and poured@ first thing noticed is the very dark colour. This wine is clearly very dense and concentrated. First taste: still quite tannic but the fruit quickly comes to the fore. It's, as expected, very concentrated, sweet black fruit and absolutely no hard edges. The tannins start to melt away quickly and the oak become apparent but in an unobtrusive way. This is a very good wine which must score very highly in every respect except typicity (did I mention it's a Cahors? It doesn't taste like any Cahors you'd come across at the Puy l'Eveque wine fair) - still, it would be churlish to mark it down more than a point for that. Would I buy it again? Well, apart from the fact I have a couple of bottles left, and some Cedre GC 2009 on the way (boast, boast), it would have to depend on the exchange rate as much as my wallet. It is extremely good though.

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