I had the pleasure of traveling to France recently at the invitation of Atout France, France’s tourism development agency, and Air France, to participate in the #Francedanslesvignes blogger challenge. The goal: to help you discover a wine destination in France. We were four bloggers to participate in the adventure and it was only at the Montreal airport that I learned my final destination. Two bloggers went to discover the Rhône-Alpes region, Stéphanie White and I were paired up to discover Cahors and its vineyards, which are part of the Occitanie region in the South West of France. I urge you to enter the #Francedanslesvignes contest for a chance to win a wine tour of France for two and discover some of the great places I visited during my stay! Hurry, because the contest ends on October 12th, so it’s not too late to enter by clicking on the following link: Contest #Francedanslesvignes. Good luck!
Now, let’s go back to my trip to Cahors to give you the taste of visiting this beautiful part of France, which is located in the Lot department, only a hundred kilometers north of Toulouse. Here are my favorites!
Prefecture of the Lot department, Cahors is the historical capital of the Quercy region. Situated on the banks of the river Lot, it developed rapidly in the Middle Ages thanks to the trade and export of the famous wine of the region. Don’t miss the symbol of the city, the Valentré bridge, a fortified bridge built in the 14th century and now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Lose yourself in the beautiful streets of the historic center, visit the Romanesque and Gothic Cathedral of Saint-Etienne built in the 12th century, and of course enjoy the local gastronomy (truffles, foie gras and Cahors wine). Cahors is located on the road to Santiago de Compostela.
Elected in 2012 as the favorite village of the French, the medieval village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie is also part of the classification of the most beautiful villages of France. Perched on a 100 meter cliff overhanging the Lot, Saint-Cirq and its 220 inhabitants (only 35 in winter!!!) has a fortified gothic church, 13 historical monuments, and its typical houses with steeply sloping flat tile roofs, the oldest of which were built in the 12th century. Place of residence of the leader of the surrealists, the writer André Breton, Saint-Cirq is today the landmark of a multitude of artists who practice their art there all year long.
The River Lot
Reopened to navigation for several years now, the Lot is a very pretty river that runs through the Cahors region. I had the chance to take a nice cruise when I was in the area. Go to the village of Bouziès and rent a gabare, a traditional flat-bottomed boat, to cruise the river. But the Lot offers a multitude of other outdoor activities: swimming, hiking in the vineyards along the river, cycling, canyoning, canoeing, and more!
The Wines of Cahors
For a long time called black wines because of the color of Malbec the king grape variety of the region, the wines of Cahors are becoming more and more popular. And with good reason! While the region used to produce and export wine massively to the port of Bordeaux at a time when wine was not yet produced in the Bordeaux region, the vineyard gradually declined without ever disappearing, although it was hit hard by the phylloxera crisis in the 19th century. Far from the tannic and alcoholic malbec as Cahors wine is sometimes still described, I discovered a multitude of terroirs and wines of great class. The vineyards of Cahors are crossed by the Lot and its meanders, and offer a wide variety of profiles between the valley, close to the river, and the Causses, which are the most distant vineyards of the Lot.
Of course, I can’t recommend enough that you spend at least one day visiting the vineyards if you are in the area. During my stay, I visited two estates: Chateau Saint-Sernin and Clos Triguedina. Located in Parnac, Chateau Saint-Sernin is a nice winery not far from the Lot, a very nice setting to come with your family and have a picnic in the vineyards. Located in Vire-sur-Lot, Clos Triguedina was a real favorite with its remarkable quality wines, its hundred-year-old vines and its brand new building (a nice architectural signature at the foot of the vineyard). Here are also other producers that I particularly recommend, having had the chance to taste their wines: Chateau de Mercuès, Chateau du Cèdre, Chateau Lagrezette, Mas del Périé and Domaine Cosse-Maisonneuve.
If you unfortunately don’t have much time to visit a vineyard, I have the perfect solution for you: The Espace lounge Cahors Malbec located in the heart of Downtown Cahors. Managed by the Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins de Cahors, this tasting space offers you the largest selection of the best wines of the appellation. An ideal place to discover the history of the wines of the region and to taste one or several glasses of malbec! Open from Monday to Saturday, tastings without appointment. Many activities are regularly organized such as wine courses, conferences, meetings with producers, etc.
Where to Sleep
- Château de Mercuès : located in the heart of the Quercy region, the Château de Mercuès is a 4-star hotel and member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux network of luxury hotels. The castle, which was built in the 13th century by the Counts-Bishops of Cahors on a rocky promontory to defend the surroundings of the city of Cahors, today offers a breathtaking view of the Lot valley and the Cahors vineyards. With a Michelin-starred restaurant, beautiful gardens, a superb swimming pool, a spa and rooms as luxurious as they are comfortable, it is definitely the most beautiful place to stay in the region. An experience not to be missed! My only regret is that I only stayed there for one night! The castle also houses a winery where the excellent wines of Château de Mercuès are produced, which I also had the chance to taste with the owner Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux! chateaudemercues.com
- Domaine de l’Isle Basse : located in Fontanes, only a ten minute drive from Cahors, the Domaine de l’Isle Basse is a charming bed & breakfast run by two Belgians, Bart and Christophe. It took them two years to renovate this old 18th century farmhouse and the result is stunning. This charming accommodation offers 4 beautifully decorated rooms combining modern furniture with the old charm of the building. Outdoor pool, sauna and jacuzzi in the middle of nature, but above all the warm welcome of Bart and Christophe. The dinner and breakfast were also impeccable! A real favorite! islebasse.fr
- Hôtel-Spa Le Saint-Cirq : Located just across from the medieval town of Saint-Cirq Lapopie, this hotel surrounded by vineyards offers a breathtaking view of one of France’s favorite villages. Outdoor and indoor pools, as well as a year-round spa, make up a successful cocktail for this charming little hotel. The view from my hotel room was absolutely magnificent. Big plus for the quality of the breakfast, which features all the best products of the region! hotel-lesaintcirq.com
- Hostellerie Le Vert : run by a friendly Belgian couple, Eva and Bernard Philippe, Hostellerie Le Vert is located in the small village of Mauroux. This former 17th century wine estate has 6 peaceful rooms. Outdoor pool, beautiful outdoor terrace, and inventive and tasty cuisine featuring regional gastronomy!
- Auberge Lou Bourdié : how not to talk about Monique Valette’s cuisine!!! Monique is a self-taught woman who learned to cook with her grandmother, and believe me, you can feel it in the dishes. It’s quite simple, getting from the church parking lot to the inn was easy, just follow the scent of the freshly prepared stuffed tomatoes that filled the area around the restaurant. Lou Bourdié, located in the small village of Bach, is first and foremost an inn like no other today! Everything is home-made, the dishes are generous, it smells and tastes like the authenticity of the old recipes. I recommend this place to anyone. I hope to have the opportunity to be back there very soon!
- L’Ô à la Bouche : what a memorable lunch at the restaurant L’Ô à la Bouche, which overlooks the central square of Cahors. Taking advantage of the nice weather, I ate on the terrace and really enjoyed the creative cuisine of Chef Jean-François Dive. I was struck by the beauty of the dishes that were served to us. A real show for the eyes, a real treat for the palate! loalabouche-restaurant.com
- Le Duèze : by far the best gastronomic experience of my stay in the Cahors Region. The restaurant of the Château de Mercuès has not usurped its Michelin star! Chef Julien Poisot’s cuisine is absolutely remarkable and full of creativity and precision! The chef is a huge fan of herbs, condiments and vegetables that you and I don’t usually know – or have forgotten – exist. I love this risk-taking that allows us to rediscover surprising, sometimes unusual, but always succulent flavors! A great meal, of course, but also outstanding service and remarkable food and wine pairings! Gourmets, if there is only one table you must visit during your stay in the Lot, it is this one! Le Duèze
To Lear More and Prepare Your Trip
In order to plan your trip to the Cahors region, here are several links to consult:
- Atout France website : ca.france.fr
- Air France website if you travel by plane : airfrance.ca
- Occitanie Region Tourism Office : tourisme-occitanie.com
- Destination Vallées Lot Dordogne : tourisme-lot.com
- Lot-Vignoble tourist office : tourisme-lot-vignoble.com
- Union Interprofessionnelle du Vin de Cahors : vindecahors.fr