Domaine du Théron Cahors: Malbec From Its Origins

If you are a casual wine drinker, or new to wine, you may associate Malbec with Argentina – and with good reason. More Malbec is produced in Argentina than anywhere else in the world today. Argentinian Malbec is fruity, easy to like and relatively inexpensive. And it’s widely available. But, dating back at least to the Middle Ages wine has been made from Malbec along the Lot River in southwest France near the village of Cahors. This Malbec is not so well known, and that’s a shame.

Malbec is, according to Jancis Robinson et al. in Wine Grapes, an old variety that likely developed around the area of southwest France near Cahors. Others suppose it developed elsewhere in France based on the many names by which the variety is known. No matter, Malbec flourished around Cahors and produced wines that were highly regarded.

Cahors AOC map from

This region of southwest France along the Lot River west of Cahors is blessed with cold winters and relatively warm, dry summers thanks to the influence of both the Atlantic and Mediterranean Oceans. This allows Malbec, which doesn’t thrive in cooler, rainy growing regions, to fully ripen. Malbec grown in this region is capable of producing very dark, concentrated wines with structure – wines that were referred to as the black wines of Cahors.

The Lot River joins the Garonne River which passes by Bordeaux and into the Gironde. Rivers meant relatively easy and fast transport (much faster than overland) centuries ago. That’s a plus unless the merchants in Bordeaux decide to levy a tax on your wine, which of course they did with the wines of Cahors. If the river eventually fills with silt and becomes unnavigable your transportation advantage is lost. This happened as well. What else could befall the region? Phylloxera. Beginning in the 1860s vineyards in the region were devastated by the pest. At least Cahors wasn’t the only region struck by the infestation. Just as the area was recovering it was hit by a severe frost in 1956 and only a fraction of vineyards survived.

If ever there was a case to be made for rooting for the underdog, surely it is for Cahors and its wine. You will definitely feel so once you’ve tasted the wine. At least that has been our experience.

We first tripped across a wine from Cahors in a wine shop back in 2010. We were unfamiliar with the region, so naturally we bought a bottle. That experience led us to collect several more. We quickly became fans of Malbec from this region in France.

Fast forward to June when we received an invitation to taste Domaine du Théron Cahors. I enthusiastically responded to the affirmative and soon a tasting sample arrived at our door.

DomaineDuTheronCahors2011 Domaine du Théron Cuvée Prestige Cahorsdense ruby in the glass with generous dark fruit aromas, hints of earth and smoke. Dark fruit flavors follow along with leather, earth and a bit of smoke. Hints of black tea float in the background. The tannins are significant and a bit grippy but well integrated into the complex flavors of the wine. The body is medium and the finish is moderate to long. This is a satisfying and complex red wine. 13% abv. SRP approximately $18. Natural cork closure.

Cahors AOC-designated wines must be at least 70% Malbec with the balance coming from Merlot or Tannat. Standards are set for yield in the vineyard as well. Domaine du Théron owner and winemaker, Didier Pelvillain, chooses to produce his Cuvée Prestige Cahors from 100% Malbec because he believes in the quality of his Malbec. The Malbec comes from the Domaine’s best parcels grown on a variety of soil types in the Lot valley.

Primary fermentation and malolactic fermentation take place in stainless steel. Oak aging, from a variety of coopers in one-third new oak, follows for 13 months. Bottle aging for an additional two years before release produces a wine with still ample, but settled tannins. It’s ready to drink now, but will be delicious for some time.

CahorsDinnerA bottle of Cahors calls for a braised dish to accompany it. I prepared boneless beef short ribs with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots. It was a welcome change from the lighter fare of summer and it paired perfectly with the 2011 Domaine du Théron Cuvée Prestige Cahors.

If you’ve not yet discovered the wines of Cahors put it on your list of things to do. Soon. It will be worth your while.

Thanks to the folks at Creative Palate Communications for reminding us just how delicious wine from Cahors can be. We appreciate receiving the tasting sample.


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